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At third "Rock the Arches" festival, a celebration for Fort Myers Beach history

Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-24 14:24:43-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — A fun day in the sun at the Lani Kai Island Resort in Fort Myers Beach doubled as a chance for beachgoers to bring back an important piece of Lee County history at the third annual "Rock the Arches" music festival.

For some, it was about enjoying the beautiful weather and live music - but for others, it was about bringing back an iconic symbol of Fort Myers Beach that was lost as the town quickly developed.

If you dial the clock back a half-century, you would have been greeted by the Fort Myers Beach arches as you passed into the beachside town.

It's part of what brought Steven McDonald and his family to the area many years ago.

“My dad retired from the army and our family traveled in a travel trailer all over Florida looking for the right town for him to retire in. Once they got to the arches and the swing bridge, my dad knew what town he wanted to be in,” explains McDonald.

The arches have a long history, dating back to the 1920s. They were removed in 1979 to make room for the Matanzas Pass Bridge that we see today.

As the arches became a staple for the town, McDonald says that the move to remove them wasn't very popular.

“I can remember my mother crying the day that they destroyed the arches, and pretty much cussing at the Lee County Commissioners - and she didn’t cuss,” he says, with a laugh.

That personal connection is what inspired McDonald to spearhead the "Rock the Arches" music festival - and after three years, the festival raised enough money through private donations and grants to build a new arch as a tribute to that piece of history.

“I think the arches are a wonderful contribution to the old school island we used to have," commented Sean McQueen, a ten year resident of Fort Myers Beach.

“It’s not a Miami place, it’s not a Fort Lauderdale place - this is Fort Myers Beach,” added Chari Blankenmyre, a 36 year resident.

McDonald says that on April 27th, he plans on going to the county parks manager, asking them to move ahead with finding a contractor to construct the new arch, using the $62,000 that they've raised.