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Although initial reports were that Hurricane Charley had destroyed the 70-year-old, 250-site Red Coconut RV Resort on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach, that was far from the case.
According to Fran Myers, who has owned the park with her husband, Tom, since 1980, the park reopened on Sept. 3 and was currently serving as a haven for refugees from subsequent storms that hit the state.
“We lost our offices, but we’ve relocated into our clubhouse,” said Myers, who evacuated the Southwest Florida island with about 30 of the park’s visitors the day before Hurricane Charley struck Aug. 13.
Crashing waves that left 3 1/2 feet of water in the park, also destroyed about 60 utility pedestals on the beach side of the park. About eight of 60 permanently sited mobile homes inland from the Gulf of Mexico also were seriously damaged, she said.
She said damage to The Red Coconut, which dates back to the 1930s, was expected to exceed $100,000.
As Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit Florida’s East Coast, The Red Coconut turned into a refuge.
“People were coming over here to get away from the East Coast storms,” she said. “About 35 people were in the park Sept. 26, the day Hurricane Jeanne hit. Nobody is supposed to have this much going on in just a couple of months. It’s been a nightmare, but it’s amazing how fast you realize how resilient you can be.”
Even with all the tumult, Myers didn’t think the hurricanes would have much effect on the upcoming tourism season.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect the winter a single bit,” she said, noting that all but seven of the Estero Island’s several dozen motels and hotels had reopened by the end of September.