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PLANT PROJECT: Mound House landscaping adds natural beauty

May 14, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A vital part of any historical property lies in the landscaping.

Mound House on Fort Myers Beach is no different as committee members, volunteers and representatives eye a winter opening of a project that has been many years in the works.

Now that Town officials have approved a master contract for cultural resource management firm Search, Inc. to complete a landscape signage design, fabrication and installation program, the overall project to fully open the property for history buffs is beginning to "come up roses."

Article Photos

Mound House foreground landscaping features meadow plantings, such as gaillardia and dune sunflowers. Near the home is a jacaranda tree to the left and a strangler fig to the right.

The design portion of landscape signage has been reported to cost just over $55,000, while the fabrication and installation elements is not expected to exceed $117,484.79. Both task orders are funded by a Lee County Tourist Development Council grant for landscape restoration.

"Landscaping is an integral part of the educational experience that a visitor will get when everything is open to the public," said Barbara Anderson Hill, chairperson of the Town Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board. "It is value-added. It talks about the history from the Calusas to the Longs, how that property was utilized and how the landscaping provided an important resource for over 2,000 years. The plants and the trees tell a story."

Hill stated William and Florence Long, the last residents of Mound House, were the ones that developed Shell Mound Park back in the 1950s.

"The other mounds were flattened and the shells were used to pave a large part of the beach," she said.

Signage under the Town's action plan is being designed for plant identification, directory/directional signs and interpretive panels. Templates for each sign type is being developed. Once approved, Search, Inc. will begin full design of them. The program is expected to take many months, well after the property should be fully open for visitation.

"That's the unfortunate part," said Hill, who also stated the landscape lighting will probably not be in as well at that time.

In all, 108 species of plants are expected to exist on the Mound House property. Of them, 68 will have interpretive signage.

There are six plant groups for Mound House landscaping: 1) Coastal Hammock & Shell Mound, which includes a Calusa garden, to the rear of the office building and bordering the parking lot; 2) Mangrove Fringe, that borders the canal; 3) Early Estero Island Agriculture, to the rear of Mound House; 4) Historic 1920s Residential Landscape, which includes open lawn featuring Bahia grass and meadow grasses, in front of Mound House; 5) Coastal Strand, along the bay portion of the property; and 6) Scientific/ Cultural Garden, which include a smooth lawn featuring St. Augustine grass, adjacent to the Kayak Shed.

Only half of the historic meadow plantings in front of Mound House have been installed so far, says Town Environmental Educator Parke Lewis, who extended a tour around the property to point out each area of the landscape plant groups.

The Scientific/ Cultural Garden was next along the counter-clockwise path tour. It includes Madagascar periwinkle (which provides two cancer-fighting medicines: vinblastine (helps increase the chance of surviving childhood leukemia from 10% to 95%) and vincristine (used in treating Hodgkins' Disease); society garlic plant, an herbal remedy/medicine to treat several ailments; plumbago, used traditionally to treat warts, broken bones and wounds as well as taken as a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams; and lantana, known to treat various infections as well as cancers, chicken pox, measles, asthma, ulcers, swellings, eczema, tumors, high blood pressure to name a few.

"This is important to people for medicinal and cultural value," said Lewis.

The Early Estero Island Agriculture area features a historical garden with mangos, avocados, bananas, pineapples, papaya and sugarcane. Closer to the underground exhibit, you can find native wild cotton, an ancestral flower that used to be found extensively in south Florida and the Everglades in the early 1900s.

The outdoor landscaping is just one the components to getting the full property available to the public. Currently, there are Mound House tours of the grounds and the underground exhibit each Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for donations only.

The restoration project of the William H. Case House (Mound House) itself is coming along nicely. Once complete, the building will provide an interactive cultural museum. The current plan for the interior makeup of Mound House includes a period room with historical furniture just inside the front door on the first floor. Former Mayor Dan Hughes has pledged to fully fund all costs associated with providing historical furnishings and other items required to recreate the Mound House period room. In the next room to the right is an orientation theater/multi-purpose room.

To the rear of the period room is the 1906 Tudor Room (original house) that will house the gift store. The second floor features a Calusa room, a contemporary history room and a nonfunctional bathroom that would include a electronic photo album and, eventually, serve as a research room. The wrap-around outdoor porch will focus the attention on a story of the estuary.

According to Town records, 98 percent of the known structural project components have been completed. Most interior lighting is now functional, cabling for internet and security is completed, fireplace box is completed to allow for the finishing of the fireplace, masonry for brick columns is complete and the second floor ceiling has been reinstalled. Work related to door and window finish framing is underway, while many of the doors have been returned for installation. The new rain gutters have also been installed.

Capital Projects for completion of the Mound House Property

Mound House Completion Cost Funding Source

Restoration Project Maximum price $315,859.00 General Fund

Restoration Project Maximum price 178,814.00 Florida Historical Commission Grant

Restoration Project Maximum price 253,659.00 Cultural Affairs Grant - State of Florida

Museum Action Plan 21,084.78 Cultural Affairs Grant - State of Florida

Museum exhibits Phase 1 design 165,636.22 Cultural Affairs Grant - State of Florida

Museum exhibits Phase 2 fabrication 96,863.78 General Fund

Museum exhibits Phase 2 fabrication 154,800.00 Florida Historical Commissions Grant

Museum exhibits Phase 3 installation 151,400.00 General Fund

Landscape Signage Phase 1 55,101.14 TDC Lee County

Landscape Signage Phase 2 117,484.79 TDC Lee County

Emergency Management Plan 15,875.04 General Fund

Policies & Procedures Museum Operations 26,266.42 General Fund

Orientation Theatre seating 4,620.00 Cultural Affairs Grant State of Florida

Observation Pier 413,852.07 TDC - Lee County

Total $1,971,316.24

Funding Source FundingStatus

Cultural Affairs Grant State of Florida $445,000.00Approved

Florida Historical Grant State of Florida 333,614.00Contingent on State Budget approval

Tourist Development Council Lee County 586,438.00Approved

General Fund Reserves Town of FMB 500,000.00 Approved not to exceed $500,000

General Fund Reserves (most likely source)106,264.24 Funding source undetermined

Total $1,971,316.24

* Florida Historical Commission Grant is recommended for approval in the FY 2014-2015 State budget

--information provided via Town records



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