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Cape Coral Living Magazine

Gem Hidden in Plain View: Four Mile Cove ‘Eco Park’ is glimpse of days gone by

Cape Coral's Iwo Jima Monument was moved to the Veterans Memorial Area of the park in 1997. Photo courtesy of Cape Coral Parks & Recreation.

The canopycovered boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Cape Coral Parks & Recreation.

Walking along the 6,600-foot nature trail and boardwalk, tucked inside the preserved green spaces and shaded native mangroves, you might think you’ve left Cape Coral city limits. But you’d be wrong. Located just north of Veteran's Parkway on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River is Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, which provides a glimpse back in time of what the area looked like before the Cape was a city, untouched in all its natural beauty.

Many locals and visitors are unaware of this natural preserve, known as “Eco Park,” as they pass by each day on Veteran's Memorial Parkway. The Eco Park of the park does help to draw interest, but the park's treasures still remain hidden—all 365 acres of wetlands and mangrove swamps just waiting to be discovered.

“A gem hidden in plain view,” says Honey Phillips, senior recreation specialist in charge of providing guided tours at the park. “Our park offers a rare opportunity to walk through a mangrove forest on the elevated boardwalks. It's the perfect place for nature study or just a stroll down a beautiful canopy covered path.”

She adds that many people are surprised when they learn the park includes such a fantastic trail and boardwalk, two piers, a kayak launch, seasonal kayak rentals and an information center with bathroom facilities.

Once on the boardwalk, possible wildlife sightings include eagles, ibis, herons, other wading and migratory birds, raccoons and snakes. You can learn all about what the park offers at the visitor’s info center. “For those who would like to learn more about the ecology of the preserve and its abundant flora and fauna, we do offer guided walking tours and kayak tours,” Phillips notes.

The Great Calusa Blueway

A Great Calusa Blueway kayak trail. Photo courtesy of Cape Coral Parks & Recreation.

Developed by Lee County Parks and Recreation and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (with tourist development tax dollars), the Great Calusa Blueway inspires paddlers from around the world. Travel east to west on the Blueway, the VCB suggests, and “you’ll discover places you want to visit more than just once. … Among them are Four Mile Cove. 

“This Cape Coral jewel is best explored in dry months such as November through April. Its dense vegetation is reminiscent of Gilligan’s Island meets Robinson Crusoe. And be sure to check out the picnic pavilions on stilts,” the VCB states.

Inspired by the indigenous Calusa, the Blueway includes three separate distinct regions of the Gulf of Mexico coast. The first portion of the paddling trail snakes through Estero Bay. The second features Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. The third portion of the trail takes paddlers inland to the Caloosahatchee River.

For navigating the river and tributaries on kayaks or canoes, Lee County Parks and Recreation provides maps and/or GPS coordinates of approved paddling trails. Included are locations of amenities in and around launch locations. Tips also explain how to safely traverse waterways while observing wildlife in this unique ecosystem, and how to protect its beautiful and fragile environment.

Veterans Memorial Area

A heron caught on camera from the boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Cape Coral Parks & Recreation.

Because of its close proximity to travelers in both directions on Veterans Memorial Parkway, the Veterans Memorial Area of Eco Park is the most recognizable portion of the preserve. Several patriotic events are held each year on park grounds and under the Veterans Pavilion Memorial. Monuments honoring veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the War in Iraq are located on the grounds.

And it’s the park’s Iwo Jima Monument that stands out the most. The monument depicts the famous image taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal on the Isle of Iwo Jima during the American victory on Feb. 23, 1945. Five U.S. Marines and one Navy Corpsman are immortalized in the iconic monument that shows the raising of the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi.

The story behind the Cape’s monument originates during the city’s early days. After sculptor Felix de Weldon crafted the original monument in Arlington, Virginia, he created two larger-than-life-sized replicas to travel the country during the 7th War Bond Tour in 1945. A third and final cast was commissioned in 1964 by the Cape’s developers, the Rosen brothers.

The Cape monument was dedicated in the Rose Garden section of the city in 1965. It was moved to Del Prado in 1980, where it remained until installed in Eco Park in 1997.


Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve:

Great Calusa Blueway: or

Written by Joe Yapello, a contributing writer for TOTI Media.

Photo courtesy of Cape Coral Parks & Recreation.