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Fight continues over saving Matlacha Bridge marker

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Fight continues over saving Matlacha Bridge marker

By Matt Grant. CREATED Dec 31, 2012 - UPDATED: Dec 31, 2012

MATLACHA, Fla. - The fight over a historic Matlacha Bridge marker just hit a new snag.

As the old Matlacha Bridge comes down, pieces of the "Most Fishingest Bridge in the World" are being collected to form an artificial reef in Charlotte County.

"The bridge holds so many memories for so many people," said Matlacha artist Leoma Lovegrove, who is president of the local Chamber of Commerce. "I feel like they're taking part of us away."

Lovegrove, and several other residents, want the bridge's corner stones - one that says "1968" and another that says "Matlacha Pass" - to be saved and placed inside of a new park a few hundred feet away.

"We want the end caps to stay," said Lovegrove. "Because they're part of our history. They belong to Matlacha island."

It's a feeling echoed by other residents including Kathy Jones.

"There is no reason that both of those end caps have to go out to that reef," said Jones. "In fact, they should stay here."

The problem is the corner stones were promised to the Matlacha Reef Project months ago to be used in a reef in Charlotte County.

On Dec. 21, Tina Bush, one of the reef's organizers, told Fox 4 she had no problem giving Lovegrove the 1968 stone since the group only had claim to the other "Matlacha Pass" marker.

"We are only using one of those corner stone pieces," said Bush.

But Bush tells Fox 4 she "misspoke." She now says the group is actually using both markers for the reef.

"It's not mine to give away," she said by phone. "We had months and months of fund-raising...we were not one person coming forward at the last minute to do this. For months and months people had time to step forward. The reef was designed around this."

She said the markers are "vital" to the under water reef.

"These two pieces might be vital to their project," said Lovegrove. "But in a few months, when the moss grows over them I don't know what's so vital about that."

"What's really vital," she said, "are the end caps being above ground here in Matlacha for tourism, for history."

Bush referred Fox 4 to the project's president, who said he was too busy to talk to us. He said he would call back but didn't.

So Lovegrove and Jones stopped by his business which was closed.

They're now hoping they can find a way to bridge this divide before it's too late.

"They belong here," said Jones. "I can't reiterate that enough. They belong here."

Organizers with the reef project said they were working on a resolution that would be "beneficial to both sides."

The group plans to announce their decision regarding the end caps on Wednesday.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com