Grieving the Death...of a Park? You Bet. Here's what Cape Coral residents can do to help save Jaycee Park

many faces of grief Apr 29, 2023

I started crying twice today, and both times people told me to stop it. Well, one actually kind of laughed at me for crying. And the other said something like, "This isn't something to cry about." 

Yes it is. At least for me. It's the loss of a neighborhood park that I have visited every Saturday since we moved to Florida at the end of 2020.

It's Jaycee Park, where I go for my A.A. recovery meetings in the gazebo. Where you have a clear view of and a place to recline right next to the river. A park where I've seen dolphins play in the water, dogs romp happily on the grass, and families come to decompress and unwind beneath the massive shade trees. 

All that will be gone if the proposed plans are approved by the Cape Coral City Council. The council is about to approve plans that: 

  • Put a huge concrete barrier up between the park area and the water, totally obliterating the current sitting area
  • Stuff the park's approx. 8 acres with volleyball courts, 23 boat slips, new playgrounds, a bandshell, a whole food truck court and – perfect for recovery meetings – a bar
  • Kill off all the natural beauty in favor of yet another money-making scheme that doesn't seem to give a damn about the comfort and joy of local residents 

Yes, I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm full of fear of losing what I love. I'm panicked – first the city proposed to kill off all the charm of my favorite little beach (which has been closed now for seven months following Hurricane Ian), and now they're taking my park! Where will I go to absorb the beauty of nature?

I moved to Florida to enjoy the water, and now they're taking away every little sliver of water within a 20-mile radius I've managed to find. I'm resisting, resisting, resisting. I refuse to accept this, at least right at this moment, even though I know resistance is where I find the greatest pain.  

I recognize it all as grief. I know these are emotions I need to process (since I don't want to sit and roil in them all night). Two things that help me process are:

  • Writing
  • Taking whatever action I can take to change a situation if possible 

So here goes both with an open letter to District 7 Cape Coral City Councilmember Jessica Cosden, since I live in District 7. I am also forwarding this letter to all city councilmembers to cover all bases. 

Open Letter to Cape Coral City Council to Save Jaycee Park 

Hi Jessica,

Thank you for your service as a city councilmember, for choosing what’s in the best interest of your constituents and the city. The proposed obliteration of Jaycee Park’s natural beauty is definitely not in our best interests.

Can you please stop the proposed plan from being approved? To at least halt the proposed changes so they can be amended in way that won’t totally obliterate the park’s natural beauty?

Importance of Nature in Cape Coral

When my beau and I decided to move to Florida in 2020, we chose Cape Coral because it was one of the few Florida cities that still had smaller, family-friendly pockets of natural beauty that were not overrun by the commercialism, noise, garbage and crowds that plagued other cities around the state.

Well, that was short lived.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club is gone.

My first favorite place was the Cape Coral Yacht Club, where I went every Saturday like clockwork. Now that’s gone. Its natural charm was set to be obliterated by the planned overhaul to turn it into some pale version of Fort Myers Beach – but now it’s just shuttered “for the foreseeable future” thanks to the lack of movement by the city after Hurricane Ian. 

Now Jaycee Park is on the chopping block. 

So every Saturday I began sitting near the river Jaycee Park, right after my Saturday morning recovery meeting. It's so peaceful, I wrote my whole "Get Through Hell" book there in about four months. And now the city has decided to kill off the natural beauty of the park – complete with a proposed mini prison wall between the park area and the water you can’t even sit anywhere near it. 

The proposal shows concrete instead of grass. The removal of decades-old trees in favor of volleyball courts and an amphitheater. The proposal shows a food truck park, with its noise, smells, exhaust and debris. And don’t forget the proposed bar. 

Yes, a bar. 

The park is now home to handful of longstanding recovery meetings, where people feel safe, relaxed and connected to nature. All that safety, relaxation and connection to nature will be gone, and gone forever. 

The proposed changes kill off all that is beautiful, natural and good in the park – turning it into a commercial hub that invites the very same commercialism, noise, garbage and crowds we moved here to avoid. 

Since the water will be barely visible with the mini prison wall and all of the hullabaloo going on, why not chose a non-waterfront location that is not home to recovery meetings for the food trucks, volleyball courts and bar? 

Why not take into consideration the park’s Google reviews from residents who absolutely adore the park as it is. Many mention three main attributes:

“A great place to watch the water, bring the family and dogs.”

There will be no water-watching with the proposed concrete wall between the park and the water. Dogs and family can still come, sure, if they don’t mind walking on cement, avoiding litter and dodging around people instead of romping on grass and chasing the squirrels. 

As a grief recovery coach, I am familiar with the grief that is currently washing over me and other residents at the proposed loss of a community gem we hold so dear. I also recognize I am in the resistance stage of grief, resisting the idea that this precious park could become extinct. I am hoping amendments can at least be made to the plan so we don’t totally lose a park so many of us have come to love just as it is.

Can you please help?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

With Hope, 

Ryn Gargulinski

What Cape Coral Residents Can Do to Help Preserve Jaycee Park 

  • Watch and read this Wink News story for a glimpse of the planned obliteration 
  • Send emails to city councilmembersFind and contact your city councilmember, sending emails to all councilmembers if desired 
  • Show up and speak out at the city council meeting where the approval of the proposal is scheduled to take place. The meeting is:

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.

Cape Coral City Council Meeting

Council Chambers, 1015 Cultural Park Boulevard

Download full agenda for May 3 meeting at this link

Each meeting has a 60-minute Citizens Input Time where individuals get 3 minutes each to comment. Come and share your views on the Jaycee Park proposal. 

This is the item on the meeting's Consent Agenda related to the park:

(5) Resolution 93-23 Approve Agreement #CON-RCP2237AP, with Pennoni Associates, Inc. to provide Final Design services for Jaycee Park Improvements project for a not-to-exceed amount of $573,565; and authorize the City Manager or designee to execute the agreement, change order(s), and purchase orders; City Manager's Office/CIP Division; Dollar Value $573,565 (General Fund - Parks and Recreation Capital Project Fund)

Hope to see you there. Hope to save at least part of the park's waterfront beauty! 

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