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Bonita & Estero Magazine

Last Park Standing: Koreshan Is Filling the Gap

Dec 13, 2022 08:00AM ● By Andrea Stetson

The historic homes, like this one called Planetary Court, are one of the attractions at Koreshan State Park. Photo by Andrea Stetson.

Koreshan State Park is the only state park in northern Collier and southern Lee County still open and it will be that way for a long time. Hurricane Ian destroyed buildings, restrooms, roads, infrastructure and more at Lovers Key and Delnor Wiggins forcing both those parks to close. Koreshan sustained some wind and water damage to some of the historic buildings and lost a lot of trees, but the park is mostly repaired and open. 

Visitors can view the 11 historic buildings, walk along trails that meander over wooden bridges, along the Corkscrew River, beside towering stands of bamboo and under a canopy of shade in the woods. Then there is the large menu of events and activities the park now has planned. The blacksmith is back in the forge doing demonstrations. Volunteers are showing guests how the Koreshan settlers generated electricity and powered equipment in the early 1900s. The Sunday Farmer’s Market is back. There are ranger led hikes, lessons in cast netting and naturalist talks. The very popular always sold out Ghost Walks are planned for January 27-28 and February 3-4.    

Walking trails at Koreshan meander over bridges, along the Estero River, through thickets of bamboo and under a canopy of trees in the woods. Photos by Andrea Stetson.

 “With other options nearby closed we will see more people, and it is exciting too,” said Mike Duey, park services specialist at Koreshan. “We have seen people who are used to going to Delnor Wiggins. Word is getting out and we are getting some of their people. You have people that have lived in the area f 20 years and have never been to the park.”

People that usually volunteered at the other park are now helping at Koreshan, and Koreshan is helping them back. At 3 p.m. on Feb 12, April 2 and May 14 there will be a concert with a pianist and violinist as a fundraiser for the parks.

Pam Jones Morton , a longtime volunteer at Koreshan, encourages people to visit Koreshan.

“Nature therapy is what we all need now,” she said. “It gives us history and nature as it exists in Florida. It gives you a rejuvenation of spirit and mind and helps you get away from all the issues we are dealing with today.”

That is something people won’t get for a while at the other nearby state parks that are closed.

“Like much of Southwest Florida, Lovers Key and Delnor-Wiggins Pass state parks sustained significant impacts from Hurricane Ian, including beach erosion, extensive flooding, downed trees and vegetation, and damage to buildings and structures,” stated Alexandra Kuchta Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Press Secretary. “The parks remain closed to visitors and evaluations are ongoing to determine the scope and timeline for restoring damaged structures and reopening the parks. The department is committed to getting these repairs completed as expeditiously as possible. Additionally, we’re happy to hear visitors are enjoying visiting Koreshan State Park until Lovers Key and Delnor-Wiggins reopen.”  

There was some damage at the park like the water damage at the Gustuv cottage, but most things are now repaired. Photo from Koreshan State Park volunteers


 Urusula Gibbons, a volunteer at Delnor Wiggins, gave some updates on her Facebook Page. She said the entire park was under 3-4 feet of sand and had up to 10 feet of storm surge.

“Hurricane Ian basically leveled Wiggins. There is really no other way to put it,” she wrote. “We are looking at a full rebuild. Wiggins is closed and all of our rangers and most of our volunteers have been moved over to Koreshan It is very different from Wiggins, but it is what we call the real Florida. it is a very rich history. they have played a big part in this area so check them out.”

Lovers Key Park Manager Katie Brooks sent an email message to Friends of Lovers Key about the damage caused by a 15 foot storm surge.

“Lovers Key State Park is making strides in the recovery process,” she wrote. “We are in the process of hiring all the contractors needed to bring Lovers Key back to a point where we can welcome volunteers and visitors back to the park. There is not yet date for re-opening our beloved park as we need to first complete basic infrastructure projects and also remove the safety hazards throughout the park. The staff cannot wait to see you all enjoying our beloved park again.”

Andrea Stetson has been writing for magazines and newspapers in Southwest Florida since 1995. She and her family live in North Naples.