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Fight over saving Matlacha bridge marker

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Fight over saving Matlacha bridge marker

By Matt Grant. CREATED Dec 21, 2012 - UPDATED: Dec 21, 2012

MATLACHA, Fla. - Matlacha residents are trying to save a piece of history from ending up in a watery grave.

"A lot of people might look at this and say it's just a hunk of cement," one woman said. "It's not a pretty lighthouse...but it's so important to Matlacha's history."

Local preservationists want to save a "Matlacha Pass" bridge marker from being sunk and turned into an artificial reef.

The old Matlacha bridge, which connects Cape Coral and Pine Island, is being torn down. Part of it will be turned  into an artificial reef three miles off the Charlotte County coastline.

The reef will be made up of 250 tons of material from the old bridge including the corner stone which many in the community would like to see turned into a landmark.

"There's a lot of history to this bridge," said artist Leoma Lovegrove, who is also president of the Matlacha Island Chamber of Commerce. "And we would really love to have one of the end caps for our park."

Lovegrove supports the reef project but wants the marker to be preserved as a historic landmark. She and other residents want it placed inside a new park a few hundred feet away.

"It'd be our very first historical marker," said Lovegrove. "It would be wonderful for tourism."

Barges are getting ready to transport 250 tons of material to Novak Reef. The material, including the Matlacha Pass corner stone on the "Most Fishingest Bridge in the World" will be used to make the reef.

Diane Martini is the innkeeper for the Bridgewater Inn Motel. She also wants the corner stone to be displayed on land.

"I think the part that says Matlacha Pass should be visible on land," said Martini, "for more people to see and not under water."

"The first we heard anything about this was the day before they were scheduled to be loaded on our barges," said Tina Bush, the woman who's organizing the Matlacha reef project. "With the permitting and project layouts, for months we've been working on this project...any changes to that delays the project and costs money."

The Matlacha Reef Project has raised $30,000 for the reef. They requested the corner stone months ago.

"It was promised to us and our supporters," said Bush, "as a corner stone piece for the layout of the reef for historic purposes." 

She said it was "vital" to the project and says anyone could have requested it, or other materials, before she did.

"I think we should have it where lots of people can appreciate it," one resident said, "and enjoy it."
 
There is a second corner stone marker that also says "Matlacha Pass" at the other end of the bridge. Bush says she has no claim to that.

The construction company, Archer Western, says they have no problem giving that stone to Lovegrove.

The corner stone was put there in 1968. 

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com