People taking advantage of the Lee County parks that have re-opened - 96.9 WINK FM

People taking advantage of the Lee County parks that have re-opened


Hurricane Ian’s damage closed a lot of parks across Lee County, and some are still closed. Lakes Regional Park is one of them. Kids usually enjoy the Christmas lights there, but this year, the park is being used as a staging area for the Department of Emergency Management.

There are parks that are back open after the storm, and people are taking advantage of them.

Every Thursday, a group of wheelchair athletes gets together to do what they love.

“It’s now good to come back here,” said Paul Hart.

Rutenberg Park tennis courts. (Credit: WINK News)

When Hurricane Ian tore through Southwest Florida, it took many of our beautiful parks with it. Last Friday, Hart, and friends got one of their favorite spots back; the tennis courts at Rutenberg Park.

“If you can’t play, you know, you’re like, what are you going to do?” asked Hart.

Figuring out what to do is what Hart has done for most of his life. “I got paralyzed at 16, almost 17 years old. So I just was forced into a world of not using my legs anymore.”

That never stopped him. He still swims, rides a bike, and skis. He’s probably more active than most people who don’t have the same everyday challenges, so you bet when the gates opened at the park, he was back.

“I think wheelchair tennis is my thing. So I really enjoy it,” Hart said.

Not every park is open for enjoyment. There are 17 Lee County parks either still cleaning up from the storm or set up to help with recovery efforts.

That was the case at Hart’s favorite place before he got back on the court. “I really liked the county do the right thing and allowed this facility to be used for storm reparations and so on.”

Hunter Park. (Credit: WINK News)

Then there are spots like Hunter Park or Brooks Park. Both are partially open but don’t expect to be able to park in the lot. It’s still closed since it was a debris drop-off site.

You can walk up to the open pickleball courts, where the next shot at victory awaits.

Fort Myers staff told WINK News the damage at Centennial Park is less than expected. They hope to re-open the park by the end of February, right before the Edison Festival.

Lakes Park looks great from afar, But the jolly Christmas train won’t run its cars this year. The park will stay closed until January while repairs are made, and it’s a spot where the Department of Emergency Management has set up shop.

Lakes Park. (Credit: WINK News)

Mike Flynn’s favorite tennis court at Rutenberg park opened up again last Friday. Flynn himself is a billboard for encouragement. He had to lose a leg to a bacterial infection.

“They said it was either take my leg off, or there was only maybe a 25% chance I was gonna make it,” said Flynn.

It is fair to say he knows a thing or two about recovery, so getting out and playing his favorite sport in a spot once used to help with hurricane recovery tells him brighter times are coming to Lee County parks.

“I think it’s great. I was happy to get back here,” Flynn said.

With 17 more parks still waiting to open, Flynn is assured Lee County will once again be a beautiful place.

You can find a complete list of open parks on the Lee County parks website.


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