DISCOVER LOVERS KEY
Ever wonder what is down the road beyond the “Restricted Area” sign? Or who clears trails and keeps the tropical foliage under control? With more than 950,000 visitors this past year, there is always a lot of maintenance, as well as improvements being done at Lovers Key State Park.
Rangers must wear a lot of hats, including mechanic, landscaper, custodian, police officer, and of course, naturalist. The Rangers and an important corps of trained volunteers maintain all the park vehicles, buildings, signs, trails, picnic tables, boat ramps and four bridges, as well as give interpretive programs on wildlife and monitor nesting sea turtles and shore birds.
Ranger Matt Kruse has been with Lovers Key State Park for 15 years. His crew that handles the long list of repair and maintenance projects runs like a well-oiled machine. Everything is scheduled, from “Monday Madness” projects like putting up signs and fences that were knocked over during a busy weekend, to “Weed-Whack Wednesday” and testing vehicles on Friday before the weekend.
In one of the restricted areas is the park’s mechanical shop. The shop is equipped with tools and equipment to maintain vehicles, build signs and small shelters, and create items needed for interpretive programs. “My favorite part is working with people and training others,” he explains as he supervises a new employee adding air to the tires on a golf cart in the shop.
Volunteers include groups of employees who come for a volunteer service day, like those from Johnson Engineering who have been coming to volunteer at Lovers Key State Park for 12 years. At their work day in September, these 50-60 volunteers will clear trails on Black Island, build a sign shelter on the Eagle Trail, repair the kayak launch ramp, build recycling bins and trash bins, install fences, paint buildings and bridges, install water lines for fire safety.
A few lucky volunteers live on-site at Lovers Key in one of the six RV campsites. Dozens apply for the opportunity to stay at the Park for up to four months in exchange for at least 32 hours per week of volunteer work in the Park.
A major improvement in the near future is installation of sewer lines, connecting the islands of the park to the Fort Myers Beach sewer system. The mulching/ recycling toilets will be upgraded to flushing toilets and the septic drain fields will no longer be necessary. This project is being funded by the Department of Environmental Protection, which understands that, with the growth in the number of visitors to the park, upgraded facilities are necessary..
Next time you visit Lovers Key State Park, be sure to thank a volunteer for keeping the park beautiful for all to enjoy. To learn more about volunteering, call 239-463-4588.