Lowdermilk Park reopens with limited amenities

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Friday afternoon brings a major milestone in Hurricane Ian recovery: Lowdermilk Park in Naples has reopened.

The beachfront hotspot was left unrecognizable after the storm plowed through, but it has come a long way in five months. Still, visitors this month should not expect the postcard-pristine place they may remember from before Ian. It’s still beautiful, but it’s not the same, and work is still being done.

Naples city workers spent countless hours working on the beach to prepare it to welcome people back. They repaired the concession stand, rounded up picnic tables that were scattered all throughout the area by Ian’s strong winds, and removed heaps of sand and mud.

Naples city workers repairing the Lowdermilk Park concession stand after it was wrecked by Hurricane Ian. Credit: WINK News

“When we got here, we had probably 3 or 4 feet of sand from the beach,” said Chad Merrit, director of Naples Parks and Recreation. “We had a lot of debris… it destroyed the concessions pretty bad.”

Merrit hopes the park and beach reopening will bring visitors some sense of normalcy.

“This is not going to look like Lowdermilk before the storm; we’re going to have to do some major landscaping; we’ve got to come in and replant grass,” Merrit said. “You’re not going to have every amenity, but we did want to provide the parking, we wanted to provide the beach access, and that was our main goal, and trying to do that safely.”

“It’s wonderful. It feels great to be back. It’s been such a long wait,” said Donna Wilson.

The city wants people to remember the park is not going to look like it did before Ian, and more work must be done.

“We are not in a pre-Ian environment at this park. There’s a lot of damage that this park sustained, so we’re trying to prioritize the repairs and rehabilitation of this park,” said Jay Boodheshwar, Naples city manager.

If you’re wondering if you’re good to go in the water, it’s really up to you.

“We just try and tell people, be safe. We don’t know what’s in the water. We don’t know what’s still up underneath, there was a lot of debris washed, so for us, we encourage people to wear sandals, shoes, on the beach,” said Merrit.

The health department said not to go in the water if you have an open cut. They also said they don’t know for sure if there is debris under the sand or water because they don’t regulate debris cleanup.

The only amenity the city planned to have ready was the bathrooms, but they came across an issue and had to get porta-potties.

Wilson and her friends are just happy to be back. “We usually are back there, underneath in that destroyed little tiki hut, and there’s other women that join us from our game night screw, but it’s just the three of us. We’ll break the ice,” said Wilson.

The city is still working on getting the bathrooms working, as well as the concession stand.

Everyone WINK News talked to here agrees as long as Lowdermilk is open, they’re happy.

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