It was nearly 17 years ago when my wife and I found Bay Palms Trailer & RV Park, upgraded from just a Trailer Park where my grandparents once kept one of their home-away-from-homes. Their permanent home was in Elwood, Indiana, with trailers at Corey Lake, Michigan and Bay Palms –  Englewood, Florida. Depending on the time of year, our family would spend weekends in Michigan and vacations in Florida. My sister and I shared these cherished memories of growing up when she visited yesterday. We went to the beach together for lunch where we once hunted for shark’s teeth and drove down the Gulf Coast in search of the park that was once the home of Pelican Pete. 

My wife and I had recently driven that route only to discover no signs of my grandparent’s park. I remembered only a marina next door but couldn’t pinpoint the spot. Yesterday, my sister and I persisted, asking strangers about the location and driving through a few trailer settlements along Englewood’s Lemon Bay. After 50 years, nothing seemed familiar but we pulled into a newly developed park that I believed was the former site. It was called Lemon Bay Sunset Rotary Park and I pointed out what I recalled to be the site of our once beloved vacation spot. Mr. Coffman was Pelican Pete’s caretaker, once removing a fishing hook from his beak, and his mobile home was the best in the park, occupying the scenic waterfront corner across from the Marina. My sister was not fully convinced, so we searched several other areas before returning unsatisfied to our house. 

I Googled the park, still believing my theory was correct. Sure enough I found an article from the Englewood Sun newspaper with the headline: “Property transforms from Trailer Park to Community Park:”

“For many years, it was a small community of people living in mobile home by the bay. For eight years, it was abandoned. Now it’s an attractive, well-used park in the heart of Englewood.

“It’s gone from being a trailer park to a beautiful community park,” Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex said Wednesday at the dedication ceremony for the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Park and its new clock.

The park, which has a boat ramp, a floating dock and canoe and kayak launches, clean new picnic areas, restrooms and a brand-new playground, is finally finished. Giant live oak trees shade much of the park.”

The Rotary donated clock now marks the spot where my sister and I first experienced Florida. Ironically, she has bought her own second home in the Leesburg area while our new home is just north of Englewood. There are still several palms in the park by the bay but no longer a Bay Palms.