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Gulf & Main Magazine

(Sunny) Sky’s the Limit for Activities: from golf to Skatium, Fort Myers dedicated to offering it all

Dec 30, 2017 10:44PM ● By Kevin
Parks and recreation and the city of Fort Myers go together like sunshine and palm trees.

The city’s parks and recreation department offers a wide range of activities—as varied as arts and crafts, bridge, dance and swimming. Residents can participate in events at facilities such as the Fort Myers Skatium, the STARS Complex and a sand volleyball court in Centennial Park.
Parks have always been one of the city’s missions. Research into historical records shows that a New York City planner named Herbert Swan developed a comprehensive plan for the city. It was published in 1926. Swan urged the city to develop more parks and acquire more land for parks.

Fast forward from the mid-1920s to the middle of the 20th century. Do more historical sleuthing and there’s a book with the not-in-the-least catchy title of The Code of the City of Fort Myers Florida 1950. It contains a mention of parks within its roughly 400 pages of dense legalese. Right there on page 86, under Article IV on the Park Board and then under Section 16 is this sub-headline in boldface type: “To adopt plan for system of parks.”

Nearly 70 years ago, Fort Myers set in print for its future the following: “The board shall adopt a comprehensive plan covering a system of parks and parkways throughout the entire city and shall recommend from time to time as the board sees fit the acquisition and development of lands pursuant to such plan. Such recommendation shall state the reason for such purchase or development and the reasonable cost thereof.”

Nowadays, the city offers activities that likely couldn’t be imagined in 1950, back when Harry Truman was president. Figure skating is just one of the many offerings at the Skatium. Very few Fort Myers residents in 1950 likely imagined figure skating would ever be available within the city limits. 

And so much more: According to the city’s website, it offers softball leagues for players 50 and older— and 65+. Websites were unimaginable in 1950, even to science fiction writers. Now every agency has one, including the city’s parks and recreation department.

On its website under “About,” the department notes it is “Bringing Our Community Together.” It does that through basketball, soccer, baseball—and a horticultural society and more. It does it at places such as the downtown Skatium’s ice-skating facilities, which offer not just figure skating but ice hockey and sled hockey, a form of ice hockey for disabled athletes. There are also fitness classes and roller hockey.

About a mile to east of the Skatium is the Dr. Ann Murphy Knight STARS Complex, a facility that has served the community’s youth for more than 20 years. STARS stands for Success Through Academic and Recreational Support. The complex has a pool, a basketball court and offers flag football and basketball leagues.

When Herbert Swan drew up his dreams for the city he likely never envisioned a sand volleyball court close to the Caloosahatchee River. But right downtown at Centennial Park, across from Harborside Event Center, is a sand court where people play beach volleyball year round.
So many possibilities, sports and venues! And of course long before the Skatium, the STARS Complex and that sand beach volleyball court, the city got in the golf business. 

Fort Myers Country Club, nestled between U.S. Route 41 and McGregor Boulevard, has been a Southwest Florida fixture since 1916. It’s the oldest 18-hole golf course in the area and was designed by the legendary Donald Ross. 

On the other side of town sits Eastwood Country Club, another 18-hole facility and a venerable part of the city’s sporting landscape since it opened in 1977. Although not nearly as old as its cousin across town, it’s still one of the older courses in the region.

The city of Fort Myers offers so many other sporting options that it’s hard to list them all. But just know that one can canoe or kayak out of Riverside Community Park, or play softball at Shady Oaks Park or soccer at Lions Park or … just about everything, it seems—except snow skiing and ice fishing!

At a Glance

1820 Hendry St., Fort Myers

Written by freelance writer Glenn Miller, president of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and a frequent contributor to TOTI Media.