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Big Cypress Fire Management Plans Assessment

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:28pm

Big Cypress National Preserve and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge are seeking public comments on a joint Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the environmental impacts of their respective updated Fire Management Plans (FMPs). updated FMPs will keep management objectives current and adopt and refine strategies that help the fire management programs operate more effectively. The updated FMPs will provide fresh focus on restoring fire-dependent communities and threatened and endangered species. Lastly, they will incorporate updates in national fire policy and terminology. In their new FMPs, the Preserve and Refuge will consider strategies to increase their ability to actively manage wildland fire and vegetation/fuels.

The EA analyzes the impacts of two alternatives:

Alternative A – No Action. The current fire management practices at the Preserve and Refuge would continue. Both units would continue implementing the strategies in their current plans, which include fire suppression, prescribed burning, and the use of mechanical treatments.

 Alternative B – Proposed Action. The same fire management techniques and tools allowed under Alternative A would be used with two added options:  The Preserve would augment its ability to use mechanical treatments to reduce hazard fuels, maintain defensible space and fuel breaks to protect infrastructure and private property, and restore cultural landscapes; and the Preserve could also consider managing wildfires for resource objectives.

The EA is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/fmp. You can provide comments online or by mail. Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Comments by mail may be sent to Superintendent, Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141-1000.

Comments are requested by August 19, 2016. Once the comment period concludes, we will consider all comments submitted in the development of the final EA and decision document.

If you have questions, please contact Jordan McKnight, 239-695-9280 ext. 103,[email protected]

 

Rare Vertical of 10 Harlan Estate Wines will kick off Naples Winter Wine Festival

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:27pm

Wine legends Bill Harlan and Antonio Galloni to showcase unique collection of “first-growth” vintages

 

Harlan Estate, the ultimate cult winery behind some of the world’s most sought-after California Cabernets, will headline the 2017 Vintage Cellar with a vertical tasting of ten celebrated vintages, including extraordinary 100-point vintages from 2001 and 2007. This very special pre-Festival tasting and luncheon will give a select few guests the chance to learn from the team behind one of the country’s most iconic wineries, while tasting a rare combination of their highly-regarded wines.

Scheduled for January 26, 2017 at 10am, a day before the Naples Winter Wine Festival officially begins, this master class tasting will be overseen by a panel of experts including Napa Valley pioneer and Harlan Estate proprietor Bill Harlan, and led by his son Will Harlan, along with estate director Don Weaver, and winemaker Cory Empting. Internationally renowned wine criticAntonio Galloni of Vinous will moderate the tasting, which will include bottles from the Estate’s 1992, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012 vintages.

“It’s an honor to expand my family’s involvement with the Naples Winter Wine Festival through the Vintage Cellar,” said Bill Harlan. “It has been personally fulfilling to become involved with such a prestigious event, and a true pleasure to donate auction lots and participate in the Vintner Dinners each year, especially since those contributions support efforts to help underprivileged children. My family and I look forward to continuing that commitment.”

Harlan Estate has become famous as one of the world’s finest wineries by creating a First Growth California wine estate that rivals the international prestige of similar Bordeaux vintages. It has also become a symbol of Napa Valley’s pioneering spirit for more than just its wines: Bill Harlan is the founder of Napa Valley Reserve, a prestigious wine club that gives its members a chance to make their own wines under the tutelage of expert vintners.

“I am thrilled to be moderating this vertical tasting of Harlan Estate featuring a number of rare vintages going back to the early 1990s,” said Antonio Galloni. “It’s truly once in a lifetime tastings such as this, along with a deep commitment to supporting charitable causes in the local community, that make the Naples Winter Wine Festival such a singular event.”

“Vintage Cellar is a key component of the festival and our mission to improve the lives of underprivileged children in our community,” added 2017 co-chair Scott Lutgert. “This year we are fortunate to have such an acclaimed winery as Harlan Estate, sharing both their knowledge and precious vintages to create a truly unique experience for wine lovers and connoisseurs.”

The Vintage Cellar heralds the start to three days of the best in wine from around the globe, as other world-famous vintners pour their wines for guests. Attendees will enjoy meals prepared by celebrity chefs, and a live auction where they can bid on myriad luxury experiences not available to the general public. All this excitement supports a worthy cause: since the event’s inception in 2001, the Naples Winter Wine Festival has raised more than $146 million for its founding organization, the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), which has awarded grants to more than 40 non-profit organizations and impacts the lives of over 200,000 children.

Tickets to this limited-seating tasting, scheduled for January 26 at 10am at Bleu Provence, are $2,500 per person and will be available for purchase this fall. Seating is limited to 50 people. For more information, please call 239-514-2239.

 

FDOT Stormwater Study Receives Award for Enhancing Water Quality and Safety at Airports

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:27pm

The Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Statewide Airport Stormwater Study has received an environmental award from the Florida Airports Council (FAC) for its efforts to improve water quality and airport safety. Developed as a best management practice for stormwater runoff specific to airports, the study has been a multi-year effort to develop, build and test this new airport water management pond concept.

The project was managed by FDOT in partnership with the City of Naples Airport Authority, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s water management districts, the University of Florida, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

FDOT Secretary Boxold said, “Thank you to the Florida Airports Council for recognizing this groundbreaking study that increases the safety and improves the water quality at the state’s airports.”

Lisa Waters, FAC President said, “I applaud FDOT on their efforts to improve our airport’s stormwater ponds. This study is a model to provide clean water and safe airports throughout the state.”

The pond for stormwater runoff was designed to handle not only airside, but also landside runoff and has been validated by measured performance. The new design provides the same water quality benefit as standard ponds that are between two and five times larger. It satisfies all federal and state water quality and quantity rules and does this while attracting 60% fewer birds and makes airports safer by decreasing bird/airplane encounters. The study findings support a new rule for airport water management that permits construction of runways, taxiways and aprons without ponds in most cases and speeds up the permit process.

Collier County Supervisor of Elections Begins First Mailing of Vote-by-Mail Ballots for the 2016 Primary Election

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:26pm

The Collier County Supervisor of Elections office will send its first mailing of requested Vote-by-Mail ballots to domestic voters on Tuesday, July 26, for the upcoming Primary Election on August 30.

Voters may submit requests online at www.CollierVotes.com<http://www.CollierVotes.com> under the “Vote-by-Mail” tab.  Requests can also be made by calling the Supervisor of Elections office at (239)252-VOTE. By law, ballots cannot be forwarded.

The deadline for voters to request a ballot to be delivered by mail for this election is 5:00 p.m. on August 24. Voted ballots must be physically returned (not just postmarked) to the Supervisor of Elections by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, August 30. The United States Postal Service recommends that voters mail their voted ballots one week before the due date to account for any unforeseen events such as weather issues and to allow for timely receipt and processing by the elections office.

The voter’s signature is required on the outside of the ballot return envelope. The signature on the returned ballot envelope will be compared to the signature on file with the Supervisor of Elections office. Voters can update their signature by visiting www.CollierVotes.com<http://www.CollierVotes.com> where they can download a voter registration application.

Voters who receive a ballot in the mail and decide to vote in person should bring their marked or unmarked ballot to their polling location so it can be cancelled.

For additional requirements to Vote-by-Mail, please call (239)252-VOTE.

 

Leadership NEXT welcomes experts on emergency preparedness and response

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:24pm

Leadership NEXT, a professional organization for advancing business leaders in Southwest Florida brought to you by the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, will host its next program on Aug. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center located at 2675 Ortiz Avenue in Fort Myers. The program will feature a panel of local experts on emergency preparedness and response including Rob Duns, meteorologist for NBC-2; Lisa LeBlanc-Hutchings, senior manager of programs- emergency planning, safety and training for the Lee County Port Authority; and Sandra Tapfumaneyi, operations chief with Lee County Emergency Management.

Each panelist will offer an inside look of how some of Southwest Florida’s major entities mitigate, plan, respond and alert the community about public emergencies. In addition, guests will receive valuable information and helpful tips for businesses and individuals to avoid and respond to crisis ranging from natural disasters, dangerous accidents and violent attacks in public places. Following the presentation will be a behind-the-scenes tour of the innovative Emergency Operations Center.

After the tour, the program will move to Chili’s Grill on 6 Mile Cypress Parkway for a networking social sponsored by Pool Pros, Inc. The Aug. 9 program is free to attend, yet guests are encouraged to register in advance at www.fortmyers.org.

Leadership NEXT is a group of advancing professionals representing a variety of businesses and industries throughout Southwest Florida who are actively pursuing opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills, establish working relationships with colleagues, and engage in valuable programs and discussions to further enhance their careers. Programs take place on the second Tuesday of every month from 4 to 6 p.m. The location will change every month based on the program topic.

FWC Law Enforcement – Collier County

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:24pm

Late one evening, Investigator Van Trees made contact with a group of people exiting Clam Pass Beach Park who he suspected had been fishing. A fisheries inspection revealed that there were four undersized snook and one undersized mangrove snapper hidden in a paint bucket. One subject admitted to keeping the fish, although he did not catch them himself. As Investigator Van Trees was speaking with the group, the subject who admitted to keeping the illegal fish fled into the nearby woods. Local agencies assisted in the search, but were unable to find the suspect. With only a foreign ID to work with, Investigator Van Trees found out where the subject worked, what vehicle he would be in and where he got dropped off each morning. Along with Officer Osorio-Borja, the officers waited for the subject to be dropped off for work one morning and arrested him without incident. The subject admitted to fleeing because he thought he would be going to jail the night of the incident. The subject was booked into jail for the resource violations, resisting arrest without violence and an outstanding federal warrant via US Marshals for human smuggling.

Naples Press Club Announces Journalism Scholarship Recipients

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:23pm

The Press Club is renewing NPC Terrence J. Miller $1,000 Journalism Scholarships for Collier County students Melissa Gomez (Lely HS 2014)-junior, University of Florida; and Eleanor “Ellie” Rushing (Naples HS 2015)-sophomore, Rollins College. Lauren Schoepfer (Barron Collier HS)-senior, University of Central Florida, is receiving an NPC $500 Journalism Scholarship.

NPC Terrence J. Miller $1,000 Annual Renewable Journalism Scholarships were also awarded to Collier County students Tamica Jean-Charles (Naples HS 2016)-freshman, International University-Miami; and Jaynie Tice (Palmetto Ridge HS 2013)-senior, Florida Gulf Coast University.

The NPC Endowed FGCU Foundation Journalism Scholarship was awarded to Vilsoir “Villy” Satine-senior, Florida Gulf Coast University.

Naples Press Club member mentors are provided for each of the NPC scholarship students, to help with acquiring internships, considering career alternatives and preparing for job interviews in the overall field of journalism after graduation.

COUNTY PARKS PROGRAM REGISTRATION BEGINS MONDAY

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:23pm

Registration for all Collier County Parks & Recreation’s fall programs begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1.

Collier County Parks & Recreation offers numerous programs for all ages, including voluntary prekindergarten, afterschool adventures, youth and adult sports, arts and crafts, music, fitness and more. To find a program for you, visit www.collierparks.com or download our mobile app, which is available for download on Apple and Android phones. Just search Collier County Parks in either the Google Play Store (for Android) or Apple Store (for Apple).

You can register for programs online for free at www.collierparks.com or from the mobile app.

For more information, contact the Collier County Parks & Recreation Division at (239) 252-4000 or visitwww.collierparks.com.

ROAD WATCH REPORT

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:23pm

US 41 from Six L’s Farm Road to CR 92/San Marco Road:Construction projectCrews are constructing a multi-use path on the south side of roadway. The speed limit will be reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph during the day. The speed limit will remain at 45 mph during nighttime hours.

Drivers should use caution traveling in the work zone. Estimated completion is summer 2016.  The contractor is Community Asphalt Corporation.

This ROAD ALERT was prepared by the Collier County Growth Management Department to inform the community about scheduled road construction and road maintenance projects along major roadways in Collier County where lane closures are planned or traffic flow may be affected.

COLLIER COUNTY CONSTRUCTION/MAINTENANCE PROJECTS:

Cypress Way East between Piper Boulevard and Palm View Drive – On Cypress Way East between Piper Boulevard and Palm View Drive expect intermittent lane closures beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 2 and continuing for approximately six months       between  9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., weather permitting, as crews construct new sidewalk as part of the Cypress Way East Sidewalk Improvement Project.  Flagmen will be used, as needed, along with advance warning signs to assist travelers in this area.

Collier Boulevard Improvements Project – On Collier Boulevard between Green Boulevard and Golden Gate Boulevard expect intermittent lane closures both southbound and northbound from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting, for the duration of the Collier Boulevard Improvements Project which is scheduled to be completed in early winter of 2017. Motorists are advised to stay alert and drive with care.   The speed limit has been reduced to 35 mph on Collier Boulevard from Green Boulevard to Golden Gate Boulevard. Law enforcement officers and flagmen will be utilized, as needed, along with electronic message signs, lighted arrow boards, advance warning signs and barricades, to assist travelers in this area.

Copeland Avenue (CR 29) between Demere Lane and Oyster Bar Lane – On Copeland Avenue (CR 29) between Demere Lane and Oyster Bar Lane expect traffic to be reduced from two lanes to ONE LANE ONLY through spring 2018 while construction progresses on the Chokoloskee Bridge Replacement Project.  A temporary traffic signal has been installed and will be operational 24 hours per day, seven days per week.  The contractor is currently working to demolish the northbound lane of the existing bridge in order to construct the northbound side of the new bridge. Electronic message signs, advance warning signs and barricades are being used to assist travelers in this area.  Drivers are reminded to stay alert and expect delays.

Entrance Street between U.S. 41 East and Floridan Avenue – Entrance Street between U.S. 41 East and Floridan Avenue WILL BE CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO WEEKS, 24 hours per day,weather permitting, as crews continue installation of water and sewer utilities as part of the Naples Manor Water Main and Force Main Replacement Project. Detour signs will be posted directing drivers to use Martin Street or another nearby street. Advance warning signs and barricades will be used to assist travelers in this area.

Floridan Avenue between Entrance Street and Sholtz Street – Floridan Avenue between Entrance Street and Sholtz Street WILL BE CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO WEEKS, 24 hours per day,weather permitting, as crews continue installation of water and sewer utilities as part of the Naples Manor Water Main and Force Main Replacement Project.  Detour signs will be posted directing drivers to use Caldwell Street, Holland Street or Carlton Street. Advance warning signs and barricades will be used to assist travelers in this area.

Golden Gate Boulevard between Collier Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard – On Golden Gate Boulevard between Collier Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard expect intermittent lane closures in short segments both eastbound and westbound to continue through Friday, July 29 between 9 a.m. and     3:30 p.m., weather permitting, as crews continue landscape maintenance in the medians and along the roadsides. Also, expect intermittent lane closures on 13th Street S.W. just east of Golden Gate Boulevard. Lighted arrow boards, advance warning signs and barricades are being used to assist travelers in this area.

Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard Intersection Improvements Project – At the Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard intersection expect crews continuing construction along the roadsides Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., weather permitting, as part of the Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard Intersection Improvements Project.  Also, on Immokalee Road just east of the Collier Boulevard intersection expect westbound traffic to be reduced from three lanes to two lanes beginning onMonday, Aug. 1 and continuing for approximately two weeks, OVERNIGHT between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., weather permitting, as crews perform roadway and utility work.  This project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.Motorists are advised to stay alert and drive with care.  Bellaire Bay Drive may be used as an alternate route during this needed improvement work. Advance warning signs and barricades are being used to alert travelers in this area.

Outer Drive between Dale Avenue and Thomasson Lane – Outer Drive between Dale Avenue and Thomasson Lane will be CLOSED TO ALL BUT LOCAL TRAFFIC between 7 a.m. and approximately 5:30 p.m., weather permitting, for approximately four months, as crews construct a new sidewalk. Detour signs will be posted.  Electronic message boards, advance warning signs and barricades will also be used to assist travelers in this area.

Pine Ridge Road between Caribbean Road and Osceola Trail – On Pine Ridge Road between Caribbean Road and Osceola Trail expect westbound traffic to be reduced from three lanes to two lanes in short segments for approximately two weeks between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. as well as OVERNIGHT between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., weather permitting, as crews continue to repair curbs and sidewalk. Right turn lanes may also have intermittent lane closures, as needed, during this repair work.  Electronic message signs, lighted arrow boards, advance warning signs and barricades are being used to assist travelers in the area.

Sholtz Street between Floridan Avenue and Tucker Avenue – Sholtz Street between Floridan Avenue and Tucker Avenue will be reduced to one lane only intermittently for approximately three months between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting, as crews continue installation of water and sewer utilities as part of the Naples Manor Water Main and Force Main Replacement Project. Also, expect Sholtz Street between Georgia Avenue and Carolina Avenue to continue to be CLOSED for approximately two weeks. Traffic will be detoured as needed and local traffic will be accommodated. Flagmen will be used, as needed, along with advance warning signs and barricades to assist travelers in the area.

Vanderbilt Drive between Vanderbilt Beach Road and Bluebill Avenue/111th Avenue N. – On Vanderbilt Drive between Vanderbilt Beach Road and Bluebill Avenue/111th Avenue N. expect sidewalk closures, in short segments, for approximately two weeks Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting, as crews continue utility work. Pedestrians will be re-routed.  Flagmen will be used, as needed, along with advance warning signs and barricades to assist travelers in the area.

 

 

Carolina Avenue between Warren Street and Trammel Street

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:22pm

On Carolina Avenue between Warren Street and Trammel Street expect traffic to be reduced to one lane only intermittently on Friday, July 29 between8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, weather permitting, as crews working for Florida Power and Light continue installation of utility poles. Flagmen will be used, as needed, along with advance warning signs and barricades to assist travelers in this area.

COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION NOTICE FOR COMMUNITY MARKET PROPOSALS

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:21pm

The Collier County Parks & Recreation Division announces that organizations, groups and individuals interested in conducting long-term community markets in Collier County parks will need a Community Market Use Agreement.

Community markets are open air markets that sell fruits and vegetables, goods or services to willing buyers. A market is considered long-term if the duration of the market is greater than 31 consecutive days, but does not exceed 12 months.

Those interested in conducting long-term community markets should contact Miguel Rojas Jr. at(239) 252-4031 to receive an application for a Long-Term Community Market Use Agreement.

All community market requests on county property will be publically noticed for 30 calendar days. This annual public notice period will expire at 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2016.

New at-risk vessel law helps FWC

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 7:19pm

A new Florida law, approved by the Legislature and Governor during the 2016 Session, will enable county and local authorities along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to more effectively manage the state’s waterways. The new law (F.S. 327.4107) allows law enforcement officers to issue non-criminal citations to owners who allow their boats to become “at risk” of becoming derelict.

“This law allows officers to take action before a vessel crosses that line between at-risk and derelict, and hopefully prompts the owner to rectify any issues with the vessel before it reaches a state of disrepair,” said Phil Horning, FWC’s derelict vessel program administrator. “Prior to this law being enacted, officers had to wait until a vessel met the legal criteria for a derelict vessel before beginning any sort of official interaction with the owner.”

Under the new law, a vessel is deemed to be “at-risk” if any of the following conditions is observed:

  • The vessel is taking on or has taken on water without an effective means to dewater.
  • Spaces on the vessel that are designed to be enclosed are incapable of being sealed off or remain open to the elements for extended periods of time.
  • The vessel has broken loose or is in danger of breaking loose from its anchor.
  • The vessel is left or stored aground unattended in such a state that would prevent the vessel from getting underway, is listing due to water intrusion, or is sunk or partially sunk.

If an officer observes a vessel with one or more of these criteria, a non-criminal citation may be issued that requires the owner to correct the problem or face stronger penalties after 30 days have passed. If problems are not fixed, non-compliant vessel owners can face additional fines issued every 30 days until they are.

Officials expect that this new law will decrease the number of vessels becoming derelict, a problem which continues to burden the state’s public waterways.

“Our goal is to keep Florida’s waterways safe and protect their environmental stability,” said Horning. “We are committed to protecting this valuable resource for the people of Florida and its visitors.”

Vessel owners are also reminded to sell their vessels properly.

“Many owners don’t realize that not only is the buyer required to get the vessel retitled in their name, but the seller is also required to notify the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 30 days that they have sold their vessel,” said Horning.

Failure to do so is a violation and may cause the prior owner of record legal troubles should the vessel become derelict at a later date. The FWC will be assisting state and local governments with derelict vessel removal grants that will be available soon. The grant funding was also approved by the Legislature and Governor during the 2016 Session. Interested applicants may contact the FWC Derelict Vessel Program office at 850-617-9540 or [email protected] more information.

Missi D’Ambrosio – Painting Marco With Sunshine

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 8:35pm

By Maureen Chodaba

Missi’s clients are an extension of her family. Photos by Maureen Chodaba

A new ray of sunshine has illuminated 1720 San Marco Road with color and light. Paint and Color Specialist Missi D’Ambrosio has joined the staff of Sunshine Ace Hardware, bringing along her talent, experience and dedication to customer service. A Marco Island resident since 1986, Missi is a familiar face, a powerhouse of expertise and a friend in need.

You may know Missi from the Florida Paint Centers. Many assumed she was the owner of the establishment, but in her words, she was “simply the manager” for almost 20 years. Anyone who has ever known Missi knows that there was nothing simple about Missi’s performance on the job. One Marco Island resident, who has chosen to remain anonymous, recalls a day when Missi came to the rescue. This individual recounts a day when he stopped by on his bicycle to check on the home of friends who were away at the time. This cyclist was horrified when his bike accidentally fell over, scratching and removing the paint from his friends’ custom-painted faux finish garage door. The 911 was Missi to the rescue. She personally traveled to the scene of the accident to access the damage and analyze the remedy. She determined the exact mix, color combination and application procedure to restore the garage door to its original state. With the help of a painter friend, our distraught bicyclist was astounded and relieved as the door looked perfect once again. Upon the return of the homeowners, he told them the story. Even when the area of repair was specifically shown to them, they swore they could not tell that anything had ever happened.

It is her personal touch and dedication that makes Missi such an asset to Marco Island. She says, “My clients are an extension of my family.” On May 20, when Florida Paint Centers abruptly closed its doors, it was not only a shock to the clients. It was a shock to Missi as well. She said, “Knowing I couldn’t turn my back on the wonderful clientele that had been built up over the years, I thankfully answered a call from the Sunshine Ace team. Sunshine Ace will now be serving commercial paint professionals and do-it-yourself (DIY) customers, just as I have done for the past years.” Sunshine Ace carries Ace brand paints as well as Benjamin Moore. Missi added that Sunshine Ace is a locally owned company with a major buying power, allowing the business to make pricing on paints and supplies much better than she ever imagined.

Prior to living on Marco Island, Missi lived in Naples for 10 years. “I have seen the comings and goings of many trying to make this wonderful paradise work for both their families and businesses,” she said, demonstrating her affinity for the Southwest Florida area. Missi began her days on Marco Island as a full service attendant at the Phillips 66 Service station, then a 7-11, located next to Kretch’s Restaurant. She loved the job, because she was able to see her customers on a regular basis. If they didn’t need fuel for their cars, it was for their boats, lawn equipment or repairs. However, in the mid to late 1980s, most people did not think that a young girl could fix a tire or diagnose a necessary automotive repair. Missi said, “I loved the challenge. Once the men and women became comfortable with me, I seemed to be the ‘go to’ girl for many things.” After 18 years of service at the station, she was approached by a friend who knew of an opening at the paint store. The service station was under new ownership, so Missi decided to take the leap and applied for the job. She was told that the owner of the paint store hired her “because of her attitude.” Missi said, “I found out how much I enjoyed working in the paint field and with color, and here I am!”

Missi continues to be the “go to” girl in the world of paint and color on Marco Island. Stop by to see her at Sunshine Ace Hardware on San Marco Road. We hope she will be spreading her rays of sunshine on our island for many days and years to come!

Placencia: Belizean Beauty

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:58pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

The world’s narrowest street.

For low-maintenance travelers who appreciate unspoiled natural beauty, a trip to Placencia is a must.

Located in the Stann Creek district of Belize in Central America, Placencia is a 16-mile long, narrow strip of land. Although it is a peninsula, the Caribbean Sea on the east and lagoon on the west make Placencia feels like an island.

The area is known for its natural beauty: golden sand beaches, lush foliage and a variety of tropical birds and sea life. Visitors can relax on the beach, or partake in a variety of activities such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling or diving. Divers will see marine life and amazing coral formations clearly because of the pristine water on Placencia’s coast.

There is one main road in Placencia, which was paved in 2010, and little traffic. Many visitors walk, bicycle or drive golf carts to get around. Driving through the area travelers can catch a peek at many red dirt roads leading off the main road, reminiscent of the days before the road was built.  At that time all vehicles, shoes, and often clothing, were spotted orange from the rich colorful earth.

At the very southern tip of the peninsula is a charming village on the water. The village is the hub of activity for the peninsula, and is the place to be for shopping and nightlife.

Children play on the beach at Lobsterfest, while music plays in the background.

Notably, Placencia holds the Guinness Book of World Records for having the narrowest street in the world, at only three feet wide. Despite its small size, the street is bustling, lined with hotels, restaurants and shops. The shops carry everything from the typical tourist t-shirts to unique local art, textiles and sculptures, wooden Mayan masks and stone calendars. Often you may find artists busy at work, painting, carving or making beaded jewelry under the shade of a tree along the sidewalk.

For lobster lovers the best time to visit is the end of June, when the annual Placencia Lobsterfest takes place. Local restaurants prepare fresh lobster in every imaginable way. Some of the crowd favorites this year were the lobster fajitas, Thai lobster spring rolls and grilled lobster served with garlic butter. The festival also brings out the local talent, and musicians, young and old, perform throughout the day and night. Vendors line up from all over the country selling art, food products and handcrafted goods.

If you come when it’s not Lobsterfest, don’t fear – there is plenty of good food to be had! In addition to many local restaurants with authentic Belizean cuisine, there is the award-winning Maya Beach Hotel Bistro, which also has an extensive wine list. And surprisingly, some of the best gelato can be found in the village at Tutti Frutti, where fresh local ingredients such as mango and sour sop are highlighted.

Traffic on the main road stops when planes take off from the Placencia Airport.

Accommodations range from economy to luxury; Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn being an example of the latter. Many private residences are for rent, often with pools if you need a break from the sandy beach.

Often visitors use Placencia as a home base to explore other parts of the country. Sightseeing tours to the nearby Mayan ruins of Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun are popular, as is a trek to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, site of the world’s first Jaguar reserve.

The best way to get to Placencia is a two-hour flight from Miami to Belize City. From there, the peninsula is a scenic three-hour drive through the mountains and countryside or a short 35-minute flight on a small plane.

A word of advice: if you are high maintenance, this is not the trip for you. You won’t find shopping malls or Starbucks here, but you just may find the adventure you crave.

Paved only six years ago, Placencia’s main road used to look like this red dirt road.

Belize Facts

• Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea.

• Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English.

• The Belize dollar is set at the rate of $2 Belize to $1 USD and the U.S. dollar is accepted as currency.

• Belize’s average temperature, year-round, is 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Belize has the lowest population density in Central America, with a population of 331,900 (2013 census).

 

 

My Newest Best Friend A Carolina Love Story

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:55pm

Goodland Life 

By Barry Gwinn

Bill and Cassandra Gwinn with Nancy and Barry at their May 28th wedding in Canton, N.C. These guys really seem to like each other. Submitted Photos

My newest best friend lives in North Carolina. Her name is Cassandra. She is a strikingly beautiful blue-eyed blond. She lives in Canton, N.C. where she grew up and spent most of her life. Until September of last year, I had never heard of her. On May 28, 2016, Cassandra, 46, (affectionately known to me as Cassie) married my son Bill, 52. To accommodate all the guests, the wedding took place in the Canton National Guard Armory. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Canton is located about 13 miles west of Asheville in the scenic Appalachian Mountains and on the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains. A city of about 4,500 people, Canton prides itself on being the second largest city in Haywood County, N.C. It is also home to a large paper mill and seven schools, which provide education to surrounding areas. It has little changed since the paper mill came to town in the early 20th century. Bill Gwinn came to Canton in 2001. He didn’t know it then, but knows now that he will spend the rest of his life there.

Bill Gwinn at USMC Barracks, St. Mawgan, England at about the time he met Cassandra Ferguson in 1987. Shown here with Jim Ball, a member of Bill’s unit.

Bill’s journey to Canton began, when in 1986, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and reported to Parris Island, S.C. for basic training. After basic, he was assigned to a unit at an R.A.F. base in England. While there, Bill befriended Todd Ferguson, another Marine in his detachment. Ferguson happened to be from Canton, N.C. and was accompanied by his wife, a high school sweetheart, whom he had married the year before. At the Marine Corps Ball in November 1987, Bill and his date sat next to Todd and his wife. She happened to be Cassandra James Ferguson, who at the age of 16 had dropped out of school to marry Todd. Neither Bill nor Cassie was impressed with the other. “Bill was boisterous and kind of crazy,” said Cassie. “She was just a kid,” countered Bill, who considered himself an accomplished ladies’ man. Nothing here. But neither ever forgot that first meeting. Todd would regale Bill with stories of the fishing and beautiful mountain streams and rivers in western Carolina. Bill spent the last two years of his enlistment at the USMC Base at 29 Palms, California, located in the harsh Mojave Desert, 130 miles east of Los Angeles. Todd Ferguson was also assigned to his unit (still accompanied by his wife), and told Bill of a community college in Asheville, N.C. which might accept him as a student. Upon his honorable discharge in 1990, Bill headed to Asheville, N.C., where after a year at AB Tech Community College, he was admitted to the University of Western Carolina, graduating in 1995 with a degree in marketing. This ultimately led to a job as regional sales rep for a Fortune 500 company, Republic Services, which had an office in Asheville. In 2001, Bill and his first wife, from nearby Candler, bought a cute bungalow in Canton. Ironically, it was Bill’s wife who insisted on that house, in that town, a decision that was to change the course of both their lives. “After Bill left 29 Palms, it was like he dropped off the face of the Earth,” Cassie told me, “I had plenty of my own problems and pretty much forgot about him.” The key words here are “pretty much.”

Cassie had moved back to Canton in 1994, settling on mountain property owned by her parents outside of town. When Todd Ferguson came home from the first Gulf War, he was a changed person, moody and uncommunicative. Things came to a head when Ferguson discharged a firearm in their Canton residence. Cassie and their infant son, Nicholas, who had been born five years after their marriage, were both present. “Todd had become a threat to our safety,” Cassie said, “We were terrified. After the gun incident we were constantly on edge.” It was an impossible situation for her. In 1997, the marriage ended in divorce.

Cassandra Ferguson, 17, meets USMC Private Bill Gwinn, 23, at the 1987 Marine Corps Ball, St. Mawgan, England.

Cassie subsequently married another high school sweetheart, Danny Cope. A daughter, Haley, was born of this marriage in 2001. About a year after her birth, Haley Cope was discovered to have contracted an active and insidious disease known as cytomegalovirus, or CMV. Over half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV. Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms. However, CMV infection can cause serious health problems for babies who contract the virus before they are born. The doctors determined that Cassie had passed this virus to Haley during the third trimester of her pregnancy – one of the worst possible times. There is no known treatment for this virus. It is present for life. It was devastating to Cassie to realize that she had given this virus on to her daughter. Her guilt has only added to her determination to always be there for Haley, who now suffers from intellectual disability, coordination problems and seizures.

Now, in 2001, Bill had moved to Canton, Cassie lived and worked in Canton, they shopped at the same places, and both had children (or step-children) close in age who attended the same school. Cassie worked at a local Main Street pharmacy, filling prescriptions. And yet for 14 years Bill and Cassie went about their lives without knowing the other was in town. By 2015, the marriages for each had turned sour, for much the same reasons. Both were contemplating divorce on account of infidelity by their spouses. Both their spouses had moved out. Bill and Cassie were struggling, despondent and alone. On top of this, Cassie had taken active role in caring for her dad who had been placed on kidney dialysis. Then, on June 5, 2015, Cassie’s mother asked her to go into town and get $3.46 worth of milk. Cassie has saved the receipt.

Ingles was the place to buy groceries in Canton. Bill too was food shopping and showed up at the same time. In a rush to get a shopping cart, he literally bumped into her. In fact, he almost ran her over. He was visibly annoyed that Cassie had gotten in his way. It had been 24 years since they had last seen each other. He obviously didn’t recognize her, but Cassie had remembered him. “Aren’t you Bill Gwinn?” she asked. That was the beginning. The two talked for another hour and a half. A couple of months later they had become inseparable.

Photo by Cassandra Gwinn
Ingles grocery store, entrance at middle center left.

In September 2015, Cassie met my daughter, Bill’s sister, Nikki Kaheh, at a Pennsylvania family reunion for the family of my first wife. Cassie and Nikki quickly became fast friends. Cassie’s upbeat, can do attitude is hard to resist. Soon the two women were planning a summer vacation on Marco Island. A connection between the families of my two children had finally been forged. Last December, Bill brought Cassie down to Florida to meet Nancy and me. They brought Haley along. She is a lovely and sweet teenager. When they left, four days later, we had fallen in love with both of them. Bill and Cassie’s wedding followed on May 28th.

Cassie’s late entrance into our family was like a breath of fresh air and has served to rejuvenate and unify all of us. It was an unexpected life changing event, which does not often occur at this late stage of life. She has touched and uplifted all of us. Nancy and I had not traveled in years. Nancy’s Parkinson’s disease made it too awkward and exhausting for her. That was before Cassie. This time, Nancy got dolled up, I packed a suit I had been saving for my funeral, and we flew up to the wedding. We couldn’t stay away and had the time of our lives. We are already thinking of going up again for Thanksgiving. Yogi Berra was right. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Thank you, Cassie.

Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years.  Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.

A High Tech Answer to Turtle Egg Poaching

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:50pm

Stepping Stones

Bob McConville

Master Naturalist         

Photos by Bob McConville

Just a few weeks ago a Florida man was caught stealing more than 100 eggs from an adult female loggerhead sea turtle while she was in the process of laying them. This guy could face a maximum term of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for hisactions. A California couple was sentenced to six months in prison when they were caught smuggling more than 900 olive ridley turtle eggs into our country from Mexico in May. A Georgia man went to jail for 21 months when he was caught stealing 84 loggerhead turtle eggs and he was already on probation for committing the same crime! There is a problem here.

Outside of the United States the issue is much bigger.

For example, in Costa Rica, eggs are taken from beaches by the truckload. So is it dangerous to get in the way of these poachers? You bet! In 2013 a ranger paid to patrol beaches during nesting season was killed trying to protect leatherback turtle nests.

It seems most of the Costa Rica thefts have been perpetrated by Panamanians. They transport the eggs back to their homeland and they are sold, mostly in bars, as aphrodisiacs. Here in the U.S. many are sold as a delicacy commonly in Central American and Latin American establishments. They are slurped raw, just like oysters, or sometimes cracked into a beer or eaten hard-boiled with salt, and can cost from $5 to $20 each.

Both here in the United States and also in Costa Rica sea turtles are protected andtheft of these eggs is illegal. Time behind bars (not the ones you drink at) is a viable solution but, like any crime involving mass theft, there is usually a bigger player behind the scenes.

Steps are now being taken to go after these more important players. A company called Paso Pacifico has developed an egg that was produced, not by a turtle, but by a 3-D printer. Just a smooth as a real egg and equally as round, these artificial eggs with silicone shells don’t contain a potential hatchling inside. Instead, there is a GPS tracking device!

Starting this fall these eggs will be strategically placed in nests that are most vulnerable to be taken by the poachers. Why this fall? That’s when the mass nesting event known as DzArribadadz takes place on Central American beaches. Turtles come lay their eggs by the thousands and poachers will be right there to take their share. Paso Pacifico trains guards to monitor these beaches and they estimate that, without the guards, 90% of the nests would be destroyed.

So the purpose of the tracking device is not to catch these thieves in real time but rather to generate maps that show the locations where trade of these eggs take place. The ultimate goal is to determine the players with money who are driving the supply and demand. Just removing a few of these people could save hundreds of thousands of eggs from destruction.

Also happening is the use of drones to fly above the beaches and help deter potential theft from the nests. This could also pinpoint the ingress and egress routes used to approach the protected areas.

Here in our immediate region I am not aware of any issues at this time but there aresome pitfalls. People on the beach that see a loggerhead coming out of the water to create a nest are amazed, as they should be. But, everyone wants a picture, and everyone wants to get close to these gentle giants of the sea – and that is a problem. If the adult female is not comfortable with its surroundings it will turn back to the water and not lay its eggs at that time. This is known as a “False Crawl.” It is important to give this turtle its space. Do not crowd around her, do not attempt to touch her or deter her in any way from the task at hand. Let nature take its course and, please, just be the distant bystander that you were meant to be.

Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and a naturalist for a local dolphin survey team. He is a member of Florida SEE (Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife very much!   

                                                                                        

6 Tips for a Safe Day on the Water

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:49pm

FOLLOW THE FISH
Capt. Pete Rapps
[email protected]

With this hot summer air, and a tackle box full of lures, it is no wonder why you may be excited to hop onto the boat for a long day of fishing and relaxing. However, before you jump in, there are a few safety measures you should know about.

1. Follow and check off your pre-departure checklist 
No one can perfectly remember everything they need to bring 10 minutes before heading out. That is why you should make a pre-departure checklist to check off before every boat ride. This list should include: life jackets, first aid kit, extra batteries, charged cellphone, water bottles, emergency contact numbers, VHF radio, healthy snacks, sunscreen, etc.

2. Assign an assistant ‘skipper’
If possible, you should make sure that a second person that can handle the boat and safety operations is on board. That way if the primary navigator is hurt, ill, or incapacitated in any way, you will have another person that can take over command.

3. Create a float plan 
Whether it is a family member or one of the staff at your local marina, you should always have someone on dry land know what your float plan is. This float plan should include: where you are going, how long you are going to be gone for, and the name, address and phone number of the trip leader and possibly the other passengers.

4. Wear lifejackets 
While this may feel a little uncomfortable and silly to wear, lifejackets are vital when it comes to keeping you from drowning. Make sure everyone on board has a lifejacket that fits them properly. Even if the adults on your trip refuse to wear them, do not let any child on board without their lifejacket secured to them.

5. Do not drink and boat
While there is nothing like having a cold beer out on the water, it would be better for you and your passengers to avoid drinking as much as possible. Studies have shown that the probability of being involved in a boating accident double when alcohol is involved. That aside, the hot sun combined with alcohol use increases your risk for dehydration.

6. Learn how to swim
If you are going to be hanging out in or around the water, you should know how to swim in it. Check local organizations, such as the American Red Cross, for some basic swimming lessons and training. If possible, encourage your other passengers to do the same.

Captain Rapps’ Charters & Guides offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10,000 Islands of the Everglades National Park, and Tarpon-only charters in the Florida Keys. Capt. Rapps’ top notch fleet accommodates men, women and children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Between their vast knowledge and experience of thearea, and easygoing demeanors, you are guaranteed to have a great day. Book your charter 24/7 using the online booking calendar, and see Capt. Rapps’ first class website for booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and more at:www.CaptainRapps.com. Captain Pete Rapps can be reached at 239-571-1756. 

Why Can’t We Live Together?

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:48pm

MIND, BODY And Spirit

Laurie Kasperbauer 

[email protected]

People should act more like a box of crayons, living together in harmony no matter what color or how you look. 

– Katelyn Doneker 

I have a couple of news apps on my phone. One is NBC2, local news, and the other is USA Today for national news. They send an audible ping that accompanies a headline on my phone when there’s breaking news. Lately, there has been a lot of breaking news. As I write this article it is just days after the most recent tragedies involving shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. No doubt, by the time this article makes it to print there will be more. The horror of human violence against humans is not something new, but it would appear to be amplifying in both frequency and intensity.

So far, I have not been personally assaulted. My family and friends are physically unscathed. I don’t personally know anyone who has been in the proximity of these headline news events, but we have all been affected. We encounter increased security at the airport, metal detectors in schools, and terrorist preparedness drills in the workplace. Gun sales are up, and levels of trust are sinking low. Trust in our government, trust in law enforcement, and our trust in one another continues to slide as crimes of fear and hate clog the evening news. But before we shake our heads and fall into depression with fear that Armageddon is imminent, know that we have the power to change the course we are on.

Here in our little white-sand, warm-sun niche, we live inclusively within a stone’s throw of one of the most delicately balanced ecosystems in the world. In the wilderness of the Everglades, birds, alligators, spiders and snakes, bears and panthers, fish and frogs have adapted to life in balance. Fauna and flora coexist in an ecliptic chain of dependence, and prey upon one another for existence, not anathema.  Black bears have not declared war on the armadillo, and panther do not claw at the throats of roseate spoonbill simply because they differ in the covering of their skin. To me, the lesson here is simple. It’s called acceptance and respect.

I’m not trying to humanize plants and animals. They are driven by instinct and acute awareness of their surroundings, but we could certainly learn to live more harmoniously, if we accepted our differences and respected individuality without judgment and the impulse to try to change one another. And it begins at the root. In our own heart, and our own mind.

Pay attention some time when you are feeling annoyed or angry. How often is it because of the actions of someone else? The guy who cut you off in traffic. The friend who betrayed a confidence. Your co-worker who talks too loud. The service provider who tracked sand into your home. Your boss, your employee, your child, your spouse. Why do we feel that everyone should act, talk, and think exactly like we do?  What makes our way the right way, or the only way? What makes our appearance more appealing or acceptable than another’s?

Peace comes when we accept that the only person we can fix, change or manipulate is ourselves. The burden of frustration rolls away and the lightness of acceptance allows space for inner peace to expand.

When we look at people like a box of crayons we see that there are crayons that are broken and worn, standing next to those in beautiful hues with sharpened tips. The jumbo red Crayola, worn flat from years of use, is every bit as useful as the sliver of magenta that’s lost its paper cover. It takes all the colors in the box to capture the beauty of the world we live in. If only we accept the differences and stop trying to make cobalt blue look more hunter green. A song was released in 1974 by artist Timmy Thomas. It has a fun vibe and a great beat, but it’s the words that draw me in.

 

“Tell me why? … 

Why can’t we live together? …  

Everybody wants to live together … 

No more wars … 

Just a little peace in this world … 

No matter what color … 

you are still my brother … 

Everybody wants to live together” … 

Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.

Finding a Marco Island Condo

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:47pm

CONDO REPORT

Gary Elliott & Sandy Elliott

www.marcoislandcondoguy.net

www.SandyElliottInteriors.com

An inland condo on Marco Island.

Starting your search for a Marco Island condo? Here’s a brief overview. Generally about 3% of Marco Island’s 10,500 condos are on the market at any given time. For instance, last week 337 condos were for sale. Marco Island’s condos can be found along the beach, adjacent to water, inland and along the Gulf.

38% of Marco Island’s condos are located on the beach and this tends to be the first area that people are drawn to. Last week, 152 were for sale. Prices on the beach range from $289,000 for a 2-bedroom 1.5 bathroom with 597 square feet to $7,895,000 for a Cape Marco penthouse with 7,150 square feet. The median list price of a beachfront condo is $699,000, which will buy you a 2-bedroom 2 bathroom 1,160 square foot condo.

Condos along the Gulf.

28% of our condos are on a canal or body of water with either direct boating access to the Gulf, or indirect access if there is a bridge or two between your condo and the Gulf. Last week 77condos were for sale with prices ranging from $193,000 to $899,000. The median price of a water direct condo is $389,000 for a 2-bedroom 2.5 bathroom condo. Median price for a water indirect condo is $575,000 with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

26% of the island’s condos are inland, some with a golf course view, some look out on a park and some come with a street view. Last week 90 were listed for sale. These range in price from $124,900 for a studio with 406 square feet to $839,000 for a 3-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom with 2,250 square feet. Median price is $249,000 for a 2-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom with 1,066 square feet.

A water direct condominium.

Another 8% of the condos are along the Gulf at the south end of the island. These condos have views of the gulf, most come with fishing piers, one with boat docks. The prices range from $525,000 for a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom with 1,300 square feet to $1,695,000 for a 3-bedroom 3 bathroom with 2,596 square feet. Median price along the Gulf is $849,000 for a 3-bedroom, 3 bathroom condo with 2,118 square feet.

Condos on Marco Island were built over a few decades starting in the late 1960s, peaking in the 1980s and finishing in 2006. Early condos tend to be less than 1,000 square feet, but over time newer condos grew in size to thousands of square feet and come with many more amenities. The median price of a 1960s condo is $165,000 for a 2-bedroom 1 bathroom inland condo and the prices rise by decade to a median price of $940,000 for a 3-bedroom 3 bathroom Gulf condo built in the 2000s.

Richard Alan…Jeweler to the Stars!

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 4:45pm

ALL THAT GLITTERS

Richard Alan

[email protected]

That might be one way to get your attention, or not? In June I thought I nearly died of boredom, and thankfully it got busy after the Fourth of July, despite the heat and days of torrential downpours. There were some mornings I swore there were tumbleweeds blowing through the parking lot; maybe it was only a heat mirage?

It is a fact in my illustrious past I have created jewelry for rock stars from the Boston band Aerosmith, numerous Boston Celtic team members, a Red Sox player or two, heck I even designed pieces for some movie producing moguls from Columbia Pictures, and my proudest moment was restoring priceless ancient Roman jewelry that was damaged while on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, also in Boston. Whoopee ding dong! So besides being a jeweler to the stars, I’d like to include the moon, sun and all the planets or possibly a satellite or two.

You know it really makes me laugh when I read in magazines or see on the boob tube or internet that this or that celebrity paid millions of dollars for a four or five carat diamond purchased from some exclusive “jeweler to the stars establishment” in New York city or Beverly Hills. And how it goes on that it was an exotic cut or an extremely rare colored diamond or the ring’s design was influenced by an eccentric designer who came up with the ring’s design during the experience of living with a tribe of dung flinging orangutans in East Africa.

So just for kicks and giggles I’ll do some research on the near priceless rock that a certain movie star or celebrity presented to his or her flavor of the year. Nine times out of ten it’s a matter of having more money than sense, the celebrities write a check for millions for this ring, but what in the real world does it actually cost!

No, let me clarify that statement, what is the diamond ring really worth? Let’s just say it will boggle one’s mind on the profit made on just one “celebrity sale.” I am immersed in the diamond trade on a daily basis and have been for most of my life and I have yet to see a three or four carat diamond, regardless of its quality, cost even near a million dollars. I knew a friend in Boston who years ago sold a ten-carat monster pear shape diamond, and I admit it wasn’t the best quality, and that was only $125K.

So it’s no wonder that jeweler to the stars, Sir Manfred La Fleece’s clients just call him “Manny.” Meanwhile, in his past life Manny sold knock-off fake Rolex watches on the strip in Las Vegas, along with fake Louis Vuitton handbags, that’s where his street name was “Jimmy Short Arms” (as in short arms and deep pockets).

The only difference is today he is leaving his Malibu beachfront home in one of his many exotic sports cars to catch a flight on his private jet to finalize the sale on another one of his latest eight million dollar one-of-a-kind four carat diamond rings in the Big Apple for some overpaid and overmedicated sport celebrity. Is Sir Manfred laughing while driving his new Bentley? You bet he is…all the way to the bank! Am I jealous, you bet I am; only I have a conscious! And besides, I’m afraid of driving fast and I hate flying in small planes.

What! Give up all this? I have a business here on the rock, in paradise where everyone who lives here is a millionaire, wishes they were or at least acts like one, the sidewalks are paved in gold, that must be why they roll up after 9 PM and the sand on the beach is uncut diamonds.

So while “Manny” is reeling in the naïve drug addled celebrity’s millions for diamonds that cost him a fraction of his asking price, (I heard he’s saving to buy an island in the Caribbean), here I am dealing with people in the off-season who are accusing me of being a thief because I charged $10 to change a battery in their $10,000 watch; one guy asked me where I keep my mask and gun. And then the next minute I’m explaining to some mental giant that I don’t fix Jaguar keyless entry fobs, hearing aids or re-gold plate handles on a knock-off Gucci hand bag. Just last week I was asked if I would fine-tune some electrical parts on a fricking elevator to make them fit, which I did, and saved some non-appreciating condo commandos thousands on new parts. It’s a thankless job being a goldsmith.

All I want to do is what I do best, and that is to design and create beautiful jewelry that people love to wear, that can be worn for generations. I love to educate and supply beautiful diamonds and precious gemstones to my loyal customers who appreciate my talents and expertise, and this past season I had the pleasure satisfying those with the most sophisticated of tastes.

I hear it over and over and have tried to ignore the writing on the wall that the fine jewelry business will never be the same as it was in the good old days before the crash.

Every day is challenge for my son and I when we try to repair the most horrendous quality jewelry that we are told was hardly ever worn.

The main source of this “trash” is from the billions of dollars people spend on T.V. jewelry shopping networks and online website purchasing, and don’t forget the big box discount outlets, where you can buy a diamond ring right next to the chain saws and leaf blowers! I hope it’s not a sign of the demise of the vocation I love so much.

I wonder if Manny “Jimmy Short Arms” needs a goldsmith in his exclusive Beverly Hills jewelry studio?

Richard Alan (Street name: “Richie Rich”) is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith on Marco Island for over 23 years and welcomes your questions and comments on “All That Glitters.” The Harbor Goldsmith is located at 680 Bald Eagle Drive on Marco Island. Call 239-394-9275 or visit the website at: www.harborgoldsmith.com.