Lakes Park Update: After Hurricane Ian

Lakes Park Six Week Post Hurricane Ian update.

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s hard to imagine that the most destructive hurricane in modern history passed through our area six weeks ago. Parts look like nothing happened and others are unimaginable! As you are all aware Lakes Park, remains closed and we sadly do not have a date when it will reopen to the public.  While we are all sad that our park, which serves so many people is not open for us to use, rest assured that it is still serving thousands of people in our area.

Here’s the story:
After Ian devastated Lee County, FEMA arrived to assess the damage and look for places to house relief workers.  Lakes Park was identified as the perfect place.  It is close to the coastal areas, has open parking areas, electric, and water.
The Army Corps of Engineers came in and cleared the parking lots of debris and made the park ready to taken on this complex operation, which was nothing short of amazing!

What is currently in the park ?
53 trailers
22 sleeper trailers for 30 relief workers each (five rooms with 6 bunk beds each).
Bathroom and shower trailers 
A huge mess tent
Cooking units
A laundry service on site for the workers
Boats, cars, golf carts and trailers
First responder units (Police and Fire)

Who is in the park?
200+ Disaster Relief Responders from all over the country are being deployed to Lakes Park for a two week period. This minimizes burnout among the workers.
These “Angels” work long hard days helping to clean properties, remove debris, build bridges, restore utilities, security detailing, etc.
Army Corps of Engineers (accompanied by Park Rangers and staff) are out inspecting homes to determine whether or not they are livable.

What about the park itself?

While the park sustained damage (nothing compared to Hurricane Charley)  it is mostly limited to trees, shrubs, and plants.
Sheds and any small buildings were damaged.
The water playgrounds on the West side of the park were heavily damaged and are closed for the foreseeable future.
The new shade coverings over the playgrounds were destroyed.
The water pumps were submerged and have to be replaced.
The train tracks and small decorated buildings sustained substantial damage.
All permanent buildings remained intact as well as the large train playground.
Is the park currently being restored?
A dwindled parks staff is working to begin repairs.  However, work is restricted to not infringe on the FEMA Operations and keep everyone safe.
A select number of Lee County Registered Volunteers, approved by the County and FEMA, are working a couple of days a week to begin restoration.  It is a slow process.
Once FEMA vacates the Park, restoration can begin in full swing.

What about the Farmer’s Market?
The market has moved to a temporary location on south 41 on the west side.  It is across from the “Restaurant Warehouse” and will return to Lakes Park when the park is open.  Jean and Betsy have suffered significant losses of both their houses and businesses.  Help them by supporting their market.

What about the Fall Festival?
The Fall Festival and Scarecrows in the Park was canceled.  This means that the Foundation, the Train and Wheel Fun as well as the Rotary all have lost their biggest revenue making event!  We hope to have the event in 2023 after the park re-opens.  We will keep you posted in our newsletter and on our social media sites.

How can I help?

The best way to help is to be patient.  We all want and need to get back to our park but remember how important this operation is and the thousands of our neighbors who suffered great loss.
Let us know how you are and if you need help.
Please don’t go to the park you will be turned away by security. 
Limit calls to the park as the staff won’t be able to return your call in a timely manner. Refer to the Lee County Website for updates.
Donate, donate, donate! While structures are covered by insurance, plants, trees and small structures are not and so the LPEF will be helping to purchase and replace the many trees and plants that are gone.  

I hope this newsletter helps you understand a little better.  We will keep you posted.

Barbara Manzo