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Estero remains slow and steady with Corkscrew & 41 development plans

WGCU: Corkscrew & 41
Samantha Roesler
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The Village of Estero bought the northeast corner of Corkscrew & 41 in 2019 and is weighing many options of what to do with the land.

In 2019, the Village of Estero bought the 62-acre quadrant of land on the northeast corner of Corkscrew Road and U.S. 41. According to Village Manager Steve Sarkozy, this $24.5 million purchase from a previous developer is a way to protect the property along the Estero River and the river itself from commercial encroachment.

“Intense development right by the river would’ve really changed the character not only of the river but that whole quadrant,” Sarkozy said. “There was a lot of struggle between the village and the developer, and the good option was for us to try and buy the land.”

The south side of the property has never been clear-cut, holding 100-year-old oaks and original strands of bamboo from the Koreshans.

“We wanted to be very careful with what we did knowing that what we bought was very valuable commercial property,” Sarkozy said. “We also knew that the property is really pristine.”

Currently Estero has plans to make a trail through the south side of the land for people to enjoy, and that’s expected to be finished in the next three months. In the next six months the village plans to construct a pedestrian bridge across the river and then a decorative fence to control the perimeter.

Marc Goldstein, chairman of the Pelican Sound Watercraft and River Committee, sees this part of land as an opportunity to improve water quality in the Estero River. He feels that Estero should consider an underground bioreactor to remove phosphates from the water, similar to what Bonita Springs has for the Imperial River. Bonita Spring’s system is projected to remove 60,000 pounds of phosphate and nitrogen out of the waters by 2027.

Although the Estero River is not as overloaded with phosphates compared to the Imperial, Goldstein’s concern lies with the 10,000 new homes that are planned to be built in the coming years along Corkscrew Road and east of I-75.

“That area is part of the Estero Watershed,” Goldstein said. “Regardless of what they’re doing on-site, some of that water is going to migrate through natural sources into the watershed and eventually into the river.”

When Goldstein brought this idea to Village of Estero staff members, they wanted to learn more.

“They are genuinely interested in doing it,” Goldstein said. “But we don’t know yet how much it would cost and how to go about it.”

The north side of the property on the other side of the Estero River was once developed by the Koreshans as one of the original citrus farms in Florida. Unlike the pristine south side, this property was clear-cut. Since this area is not as environmentally sensitive, it could qualify for commercial development and housing.

“The council has already looked at two option of high-density development, but there’s no clear plan yet,” Sarkozy said.

Although there is not yet any set plan for the north part of the land, officials know they want to help one of the community's oldest businesses: Estero River Outfitters.

“The Outfitters don’t have enough land for what they do now, they lease land from the village,” Sarkozy said. “So we want to upgrade their site and let them do what they can’t do right now.”

Justin Stuller is one of the owners of Estero River Outfitter. His parents opened the business in 1977.

“This is a real natural area, with the state park across the street and this are that they’re looking at,” Stuller said. “To see the change that’s happening all around us and getting to be a part of it is pretty cool. We’re super excited to see what the future brings to this area.”

For now Estero is continuing to take its time with the precious land, and is open to many possibilities.

“We want to create a nice direction of where the plan could go and be opportunistic if other plans come to mind,” Sarkozy said. “We don’t want to restrain ourselves to one objective.”