b'One night, we took a secret ballotTheMyersmovedtoFortMyerswhere they built a deli and their home, vote at our dinner table, Myers recalled,Beach in 1975 and initially lived as full- which was on the second floor above the notknowingforsurehoweveryonetime RVers in a 28-foot trailer at the Reddeli. would vote, including her three children,Coconut while they used the proceedsWhile Tom Myers worked as a jour-ages 18, 16 and 10. All five of us voted tofrom the sale of their house in Toledo toneyman electrician in Toledo, at Fort go to Fort Myers Beach.purchase a small plot of land nearbyMyers Beach he ran his namesake deli for four years, Toms Island Deli, before taking over operations of the Red Co-conut. In those days, the Red Coconut was owned and operated by the Pallottine Fathers, an order of Catholic priests who purchased the resort in 1969, according to published reports. The priests initially didnt want to sell the park, Myers said, but at some point, during the 1980s the Popetoldtheprieststheycouldno longer be in the property business.The Red Coconut began operation in 1932. My husband went to see the priests and he made them a proposal for the RVshopping mall for about 10 years before park, Myers recalled. About two weeksselling it and joining Tom at the Red Co-later,wegotaphonecall. Theheadconut. priestsaidtheywouldcometoourOver the past 30 years, the Myers have house (to speak with us). They wantedmade many improvements to the Red all of our children present.Coconut. We had to make sure every-Myers cooked a brunch for the priestsbody had a big cement slab. We replaced on her back porch and the priests inter- the utilities and brought everything up viewed both Fran and Tom Myers, asto 30- to 50-amp electrical connections. well as each of their children. We got aWe improved the roads, renovated the call four weeks later, Fran Myers re- clubhouse and computerized the office. called. They said, We like your family.One thing we dont have is a pool. But if We like what we saw. We want to take awe put in a pool, wed have to give up chance on you.some campsites, she said. The priests initially planned to leaseNow 83 and 84 years old, respectively, the park to the Myers for three years andFran and Tom continue to run the park then sell it if they were satisfied that thewith assistance from several other fam-park was being run to their satisfaction.ilymembers,includingtwooftheir But the priests changed their minds andgrandsons, who work in maintenance, a told them they needed to sell the parknephew who works in the office and a after one year. The Myers cobbled to- niece who is the parks CEO. The Myers gether enough funds to purchase thealso have a son and daughter-in-law in park for $3 million. Myers said she wasVirginiawhowilllikelytakeoverfor amazed they were able to obtain thethem whenever they decide to retire. loan.None of us want to sell the park, The bank would not have loaned ussaidFranMyers,whositsonLee all that money (just on our own), sheCountys Tourism Development Council said. But the park already was success- as well as the Port Authority. Every two ful. Theclosingontheparktook16weeks, I get somebody that wants to buy hours.the park. We keep saying, Its not for While Tom Myers focused his atten- sale. tion on the Red Coconut, Fran by thisEven though the Red Coconut has time had developed another business,campsites that are small by todays stan-running a 40,000-square foot shoppingdards,itremainsextremelypopular. mall that she and Tom had built on theMost of our guests dont mind being site where they initially operated thetight and being put in there with a shoe-deli. Fran continued to supervise thehorn because they want to be by the beach, she said. Right now, our guests include the grandchildren of people that started coming here in the 1940s and 50s. Its generation after generation. Its just a very special place because of the location. Because were on an island, we have water on both sides of us. The Red Coconut has 250 sites, in-cluding 60 on the west side, facing the Gulf of Mexico, and 190 on the east side, facing the Florida coast. Sixty of the sites are leased year-round by people with mobile homes. The rest (of the sites) are overnight. The east side of the park backs up against the 60-acre Matanzas Pass Pre-serve, which features a birding trail with many species of birds, including egrets, herons, pelicans, palm warblers and os-preys. But the main attraction, of course, istheRedCoconutswhite-sand beaches. Since this pandemic hit, weve been busierthanweveeverbeenbefore, Myers said, adding that she had to hire two more people for the front office just toanswerthephones.Ihavenine working in the front office. In mainte-nance, we have six or seven, she said. Myers said business is booming so far in 2021. Florida Parks continued on page 3632 November 2021Woodalls Campground Magazine'