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Portu
Portu
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Not a day goes by that the ever-changing face of Marco Island isn’t readily apparent.

Whether on the way to work or a quick trip to the grocery store, it’s easy to see that the sleepy beachside retirement community of 30 years ago is but a distant memory.

This evolving facade has had its pluses and minuses, as many of us can agree.

One of the benefits, in my mind, has been the amazing development of some admirable community features and resources. Veterans Park, Residents’ Beach, Jolly Bridge and Winterberry Park have all seen remarkable improvements and undoubtedly have contributed to the significant notoriety that Marco Island has received in the past few years. (Top island destination in the US! No. 4 worldwide, per TripAdvisor).

Come the end of summer and midterm elections, island residents will once again have an opportunity to move our island forward by voting yes on a referendum to construct a new community center at Mackle Park.

The issue of the community center has been the source of much heated debate over the past few years, and rightfully so.

Our hometown has suffered through a dramatic downturn in housing development and construction, struggled with managing our water and sewer utility, and pushed through the implementation of a hotly contested septic replacement project, all of which have placed a burden on resident taxpayers and city coffers.

Politics in our country have done little to help matters. Our nation’s capital has been filled with vitriol and partisan politics; “leaders” determined to make a point and stay in power instead of working on the basis of compromise and an eye toward the greater good of our country’s future.

Sadly, this environment is contagious and our local civic and political atmosphere has been no exception. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the “comments” section online below this column!

Undoubtedly, the result has been more than a fair share of worthwhile projects and opportunities being cast aside as “too expensive” or “not in the budget.”

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In this case, islanders have the opportunity to make the right choice for the community with their own vote on election day. The referendum for the community center at Mackle Park would set aside funds to replace a building that is grossly outdated, insufficient in capacity, and markedly below current building codes and standards for safety and accessibility. A new structure would create a bevy of programming opportunities, public meeting space for community organizations, and place new educational opportunities at the doorstep of our island homes.

The precedent for us to make the right decision is there. One shudders to think about what the landscape of our great nation would be were it not for the sacrifice of those before us and their selfless determination to put aside resources that would one day become our national parks, monuments and unparalleled infrastructure.

In our case, the fruit of our own labor will grow and prosper just down the street for the benefit of those around us (85 percent of users of the existing community center are Marco Island residents).

The herculean sacrifice for each of us? About the price of two lattes from your local barista, or about $10 per year per average-valued household.

What better expense is there in a time of divisiveness, political strife and the gradual disappearance of our middle class than a place where we can come together as a community? A place to gather, learn, meet and celebrate. A place where young and old can partake together in the splendor that is our island paradise.

I, for one, can think of few better legacies to leave for my children and grandchildren and can only hope that others agree.

Marco Island resident Dr. Carlos Portu is a primary care physician specializing in internal medicine at Physicians Regional-Collier Boulevard and Marco Island

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