No permit required: Developing Cape Coral in 1958

The development of Cape Coral began in 1958 in the southeastern portion of the Cape, at Redfish Point along Matlacha Pass. No building permits were required and the mud started flying.

As a result, 5 things happened.

1. Over the next 5 years, the mangroves fringing the land were removed, and more than 50 million cubic yards of salt marsh and salt flats were excavated, the fill used to attain the minimum elevation of 5.5 feet above sea level required for building.

2. The stripping and dredging operations continued for nearly 20 years before dreaded new water- and wetland-development regulations stopped them. But by then, Cape Coral had the most extensive canal system in the world!

3. Perhaps significantly, the replacement of natural wetlands with land fill removed a natural water source, as well as the shoreline stabilization and protection against storm surges provided by mangroves. The canals are possibly conduits for catastrophic storm-water surges; the canals have the potential, therefore, of turning this waterfrontwonderland into a waterworld wonderland.

4. Polluted storm-water runoff added to the stagnant water in the canals does occasionally breed algae blooms that, incidentally, deprive sea life in the canals and in the estuarine environments around them of oxygen.

5. The removal of the mangroves has eliminated their water-cleansing effect upon these estuaries, and as the mangroves were lush habitat for shellfish and finfish, their removal may, as commercial fishermen say, have severely depleted one of the most abundant fishing grounds in the world of both its recreational and commercial fish.

Nevertheless, as developer Leonard Rosen claimed, uninhabitable mangroves and wetlands are “absolutely useless,” whereas developing Cape Coral into a boaters’ paradise has made their dreams a reality for untold thousands of future homeowners.