Safety Council

Engage Estero Safety Council is made of volunteers serving as a voice for the citizens of greater Estero on safety and transportation priorities and issues. We advocate for related solutions to Village, County, and State Government organizations.

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Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero By Contributing Author, Mark Novitski, and Engage Estero Consultant.  Everyone has their definition of what determines road safety or, conversely, what makes our roads unsafe. In writing extensively about Corkscrew Road, I have...

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Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comprtroller Kevin Karnes is now offering an alert notification system for Lee County property owners to reduce fraud. When you sign-up, if a deed, mortgage, or other non-Court official record is recorded in your name, you will be...

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Environment Council

Engage Estero Environment Council is a volunteer group focusing on improving water and air quality and mitigating and eliminating the effects of climate warming in greater Estero.

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Health Council

Engage Estero Community Health Council comprises health* and safety-minded volunteers who think about community health comprehensively with a common desire to improve the overall health of the citizens of greater Estero.

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Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

The facts Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 300,000 lives annually. Approximately 95 percent of SCA victims die before they reach a hospital or receive medical attention. How Can We Help Reduce This...

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Education Council

Engage Estero mobilizes volunteers in our schools, sponsors scholarships, and promotes the involvement of the community through announcements and public forums.

Latest news…
Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

By Mike Wasson, Director, Engage Estero The Village of Estero Council issued a Proclamation its Meeting on Wednesday, March 6th honoring 39 Estero High School Students who were presented the Cambridge Outstanding Learners Awards. In his remarks, Jon McLain, Village of...

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Updates on Issues of Impact

Engage Estero believes the best way to get a community involved is to make sure they are aware of the issues impacting their future, and know how to impact those decisions before they are made. We conduct and publish original research and articles aimed at getting residents Engaged.

We Are Poisoning The “Jewel” of Estero
-Estero Bay-

Many residents living in greater Estero are unaware that Estero Bay was the first aquatic nature preserve established in Florida in 1966. It is a 10,000-acre Florida State Park with water, inlets, and islands along a 10-mile stretch. It is bordered on the west by a chain of barrier islands, which include Estero Island, Long Key, Lovers Key, Black Island, Big Hickory Island, and Little Hickory Island, from north to south, respectively. Mangrove trees are the Bay’s most dominant vegetation, although you can find extensive seagrass beds within the shallow bays and sounds.

The combination of subtropical climate, the lagoon configuration, and vegetation make this estuarine complex one of the most productive in the state. Approximately 40% of the state’s endangered and threatened species are in this area.

The estuary also indirectly supports a variety of commercial and sport fisheries by providing nursery areas, which substantially adds to the local economy. The estuary is also an essential home for bird nesting colonies and a valuable stopover area for migrating birds. It attracts many boaters, paddleboarders, kayakers, fishermen and women, and those who want to enjoy the view and sunset. It is a huge attraction for residents and visitors alike.

But sadly, the Estero Bay is at serious risk. The consequences are grave as it puts in peril the revenue received from tourism. Lee County’s Visitor and Convention Bureau has reported that there are 4.5M visitors to Lee County annually, giving rise to over $ 4 billion in revenue, with 20% of those employed in the county connected to tourism! Climate change, hurricanes, red tide, and blue-green algae seriously impact tourism in our area, although the full impact has yet to be determined. While addressing these issues in the short term may be challenging, the medium- and longer-term impact will be catastrophic if we don’t act meaningfully.  

Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper

Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper, addressed the Engage Estero’s Community & Member meeting on November 15th and summarized his concerns about water quality in our area. He reinforced that using the Caloosahatchee to drain water from Lake Okeechobee hurts our local ecosystems in two ways:

  1. Too much or too little freshwater kills oysters, seagrass, and larvae of aquatic species
  2. The nutrient-rich water carries and accelerates algae blooms into canals and estuaries.

Historically, wetlands filtered and cleaned water flowing across the land. Without that natural filtration, algae are next in line to benefit from the nutrients. Blue-green algae live in fresh and brackish water canals, rivers, and estuaries, creating toxins that harm wildlife and humans.

Captain Pierce also pointed out the dangers of red tide, stating, “Red tide is a saltwater alga, but increasing in scope, intensity, and distribution in recent years. Its occurrence has increased due to the increased nutrients discharged to our coast, creating dangerous toxins that harm humans, fish, and wildlife. We must restore natural water flows to have healthy ecosystems to benefit wildlife and humans.”  

Speaking specifically about Estero Bay, Captain Pierce summarized his concerns as follows, stating that all the following are in evidence and contributing to the “perfect storm”:

  • Stormwater runoff
  • Impervious surfaces
  • Lawn chemicals
  • Golf courses
  • Reclaimed water
  • Retention “lakes” don’t work
  • Septic tanks
  • Aging neighborhood and municipal waste treatment infrastructure
  • Agricultural runoff
Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper

Captain Pierce states,

“The Estero Bay is its own unique place. There is no other place like it. There will never be another one of these. So, it’s important we take really good care of it!”

Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper

Let us know how you feel! Take a short survey on the importance of threats to water quality to you and your family.

The Seagrass level is down to only 4% of its historical range in Estero Bay, replaced by algae due to a high nitrogen level (it increased by 250%). Captain Pierce feels it is a “classic tragedy because everyone contributes a little bit to the overall impact of what we are facing, and no one is responsible for the clean-up!”

Why is seagrass Important? Underwater seagrass meadows — one of the main habitats in coastal estuaries — represent one of the most biologically productive biomes on the planet. They reduce the indirect effect of coastal erosion, through their capacity to stabilize and maintain sediments on the seabed. They also improve water clarity and quality by capturing organic material, sediments and nutrients that flow in the water. It supports a range of marine life. It is a vital food source for manatees, which are endangered, as well as providing the opportunity for fish larvae to develop and grow into various adult fish species to repopulate the Gulf and inner waterways. Yet, seagrass habitats are being lost at an alarming rate, and their decline now rivals those reported for tropical rainforests, coral reefs and mangroves.

Like the rest of Southwest Florida, the Estero area has been experiencing a rise in the water level in the Gulf of Mexico due to the rise in global temperatures and its impact on the polar areas.

The consequence is that with higher water levels, sea levels rise, and that water is constantly encroaching on the areas we call home. The more that the water makes contact with our areas, the likelihood of pollutants entering the water goes up. Captain Pierce added, “As the sea level rises, the water has more force to push water inwards, and then when the water drops, it has a greater force of drawing nutrients out of the land.”

When asked, “Given the urbanization taking place in Estero, what things would you like to see the Estero Village Council implement that might at least start to mitigate the impact on our water quality?” Captain Pierce responded:

1) This fiscal year, we are in a fertilizer blackout throughout the entire State of Florida. The Council should provide reassurance that the fertilizer ordinances stay in place. This ordinance should also be published more widely and frequently. It should be at the top of the list of water things to do.

2) The Council must carefully explore the impact of new developments on the hydrological water flow. Starting from inland Florida, a very gradual water shelf flows in a westerly direction straight into Estero Bay. Whatever happens in the developments in Estero or to the east will impact Estero Bay. It is essential to consider how these developments and weather events can change the hydrological flow and the potential nutrients are transported. Thus, there is a need to carefully examine the impact of these new developments and restrict runoff that could contain nitrogen.

3) The freshwater supply should also be a concern and at the top of the list. The more groundwater there is, the greater the pressure inside the aquifer, which helps keep contaminants out and lessens the likelihood of saltwater intrusion. In the past, Estero Bay used to have certain rivers that came from springs.That isn’t seen nowadays because we lack the water table and pressure to expel the fresh water. We need to ensure that our aquifers are not adversely affected by the increased impervious surfaces that do not allow water to filter through the ground to top up these vital water sources.

Engage Estero is indebted to Captain Pierce for his valuable insights. You can view a recording of the meeting held on November 15th at https://www.esterotoday.com/. You can access the following enlightening videos at the Calusa Waterkeeper website:

Engage Estero is currently supporting “Sustainability and Community Resilience” efforts in partnership with:

Engage Estero is an all-volunteer, nonpolitical, nonprofit Community Engagement Association. We exist to inform citizens of significant community issues and encourage citizen engagement to favorably impact the quality of life in greater Estero.

  Be Informed,
Get Engaged,
and Make an Impact!