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Alva school site, Joel Agri-Eco Park focus of meeting

May 3, 2017
By JUSTIN MARTIN ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

If an Alva-based community group has its way, a Lee County agricultural park planned for Joel Boulevard will have a new neighbor.

Don Ruane, with Alva Inc., spoke at the Develop Lehigh meeting on Tuesday at the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District. Operating under the Lee County Economic Development Office, Develop Lehigh is a community planning effort that includes county staffers and residents.

Ruane gave a presentation on the merits of a Joel Boulevard site for a future high school.

Article Photos

Don Ruane

Currently, the Lee County School District is in the process of deciding between two locations for its new East Zone school. The proposed sites are in Alva, at the corner of Joel and Tuckahoe Road, and in Gateway at State Road 82 and Griffin Drive. The school board is expected to pick a location in June.

According to Ruane, locals have been contributing to the school district for years.

"The people of this area and Lehigh Acres have been paying school taxes, and that has been for the privilege of having a good education system, but also shipping your kids all the way out to Lehigh (Senior High School) or Riverdale (High School)," he said.

"If the school district wants to engage parents more in school activities, then we should get a return on those tax dollars," Ruane said.

He noted that residents can help make the Joel site a reality for the new school.

If built in Alva, the new school's proposed curriculum would be focused on agriculture and ecology. Ruane explained that the new program would be a unique and valuable one for the school district.

Also on Tuesday, an update was presented on the Joel Agri-Eco Park, which will be located at Joel Boulevard and East 23rd Street - about one mile south of the proposed Alva site for the school.

Jason Lamey, with the Lee County Parks and Recreation Department, explained that the park is in the permitting phase and construction is tentatively set to begin in late 2018. It will have an agricultural and ecological theme, with an outdoor classroom to teach residents about how to nourish edible plants.

Ruane pointed to the partnership opportunities the park and school would have.

Ruth Anglickis, a member of Develop Lehigh, has echoed that.

According to Anglickis, a portion of the park will be dedicated to agricultural education through the UF/IFAS Extension office. On-site training will teach proper agriculture techniques to the community, while on-site ponds for water retention and filtering will help teach aquaculture and littoral planting.

On Tuesday, she urged those in attendance and Lehigh residents to contact the Lee County School Board members to make sure their voices are heard before a decision is made on the school site.

"It is constantly the Lehigh kids that are being bussed everywhere, it is time for those kids to be bussed inside their community," Anglickis said.

"We are a huge community and growing by leaps and bounds," she said. "A new high school in that area helps develop more commercial and more housing."

According to officials, Joel Agri-Eco Park is about 60 percent complete. The plans are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District.

The park will feature hiking, trails, pavilions, an educational center, restrooms and parking.

For more information on Develop Lehigh, or to join the local effort, contact Rachel Busch at the county's Economic Development Office at 239-533-6816 or

The LA-MSID is at 601 East County Lane.



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