For long-time residents and those who have recently moved to Lehigh Acres who are interested in the history of the area, the East County Water Control District has planned a month-long celebration of its 55th anniversary with a series of events on Wednesdays from May 8 to May 29.
A lot of effort and planning has gone into the sessions and several guest lecturers and speakers will be on hand to guide the public through the last 55 years of Lehigh which began really as no more than a ranch with areas that flooded with high rains.
The ECWCD has been preserving and protecting water resources through draining, conservation, mitigation, navigation and water best management practices over 70,000 acres of land in both Lehigh and the west portion of Hendry County.
The water control district has played a major role in what has become a community with some 87,000 residents, those figures released by the U.S. Census.
ECWCD currently maintains 311 miles of canals, 20 lakes, 360 culvert crossings, 223 bridges and water control structures. The water district manages 1,298 preserve acres as well as 578 acres of Harns Marsh, a retention and detention area that draws visitors to view the vast lake and preserve and the different varieties of wildlife, including several species of birds and some unusual snails.
With all that the ECWCD has done to make Lehigh a viable community, its board and its staff wants to showcase its roots and pay tribute to its local community through the special speaker series.
These programs will be held at the ECWCD campus at 601 E. County Lane, just off Lee Blvd. It is the headquarters of the water control draining district and works from its new building at the site.
David Lindsay, the ECWCD's executive director, says the district will take guests on a journey through the history of southwest Florida, environmental changes, the development of Lehigh with a look at the early years to economic the boom and later with a current resources with a look to the future.
You may not leave the month-long series with a diploma, but you will leave with a knowledge of the area that is rich in history, said Carla Ulakovic, ECWCD's community project specialist.
She said the programs for the four Wednesdays are held from 1 to 3 p.m.
Reservations are required because seating is limited, Ulakovic said.
To reserve your seat, contact her at 239-368-0044 or contact her through email at: Carlau@ecwcd.com and the staff will confirm your reservation.
The following sessions are planned and you may want to mark your calendars for the special programs.
- Wednesday, May 2, A Look Through the Ages. This session will take a look at early life along the Caloosahatchee River, the roots of Fort Myers, and environmental concerns of the developing area. Speakers include Amy Bennett Willilams, author of Along the Caloosahatchee River; Kevin Erwin, an ecologist; and Jim Hull, a descendant of one of Southwest Florida's pioneer families and CEO of AIM Engineering and Surveying.
- Wednesday, May 15, A Corporation Town is born (1940s through the 1970s.) In this session, visitors will be able to take a look at the impact of Buckingham Airfield on the area and will visit the roots of the Lehigh Acres community. Local experts and enthusiasts will share their knowledge of the community's early development. Speakers include Matt Johnson, author of the Buckingham Army Airfield; ECWCD Commissioner David Deetscreek, and Ruth Anglickis, vice president of Landex corp.
- Wednesday, May 22, A Growing Community from the 1980s to the 2000s. This session will take a look at the growth and development of Lehigh Acres after the exit of the Lehigh Corporation which originated the town with platted parcels. Speakers include Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, ECWCD Commissioner J. Nathan Stout, Bob Howard, former ECWCD manager and engineer; Wayne Daltry, a former director of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.
- Wednesday, May 29, A Look Forward. This session will take a look at the future potential for Lehigh Acres, still an unincorporated town, a look a local government and agency representatives will share insights and their efforts to improving the local community. Speakers include State Rep. Matthew Caldwell of Lehigh Acres, Capt. John Haberman, commander of the Bravo Station of the Lee County Sheriff's Office in Lehigh, and David E. Lindsay, ECWCD manager.