The world-class resort destination of Marco Island is snugly nestled in the many mangrove islands of southwest Florida’s Gulf coast. There are miles of uninhabited islands and inlets, bays, creeks, and even the Gulf of Mexico itself. This four miles wide by six miles long island is also located near the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and adjoining Briggs Memorial Nature Center and right in the heart of the prime fishing available in the Ten Thousand Island area. The population of year-round residents of Marco Island doubles during the prime Snowbird season of January through March.
Anyone who lives on Marco Island for any length of time knows that the dependable Florida sunshine and enjoyable temperatures of 70-80 degrees are just part of the draw to live here and call it home. The many outdoor recreations, plentiful sunshine, and fruitful fishing and golf are only part of what makes living on Marco Island so desirable. Near enough to Naples, Marco Island itself also offers premiere dining, chichi shops, enjoyable harbors and docks, and some of the most spectacular sunsets this side of the Mississippi. Living here is a true delight no matter whether its year-round or during Snowbird season.
Marco Island was developed in the late ’60s through the ’70s by the visionary Mackle brothers and their company, Deltona Corporation. Prior to Marco, the brothers had developed some of Florida’s most renowned real estate including Key Biscayne, the luxury enclave off Miami Beach. Marco was special for the Mackles. Their ambitious dream to transform a bug-infested, swampy island into a tropical playground inspired them and they pursued their dream passionately. Unfortunately, the best laid plans…
Every detail of the dream was planned, an aggressive construction time table was established and a sales force was assembled. Marco was off and running. JACKPOT! Marco Island was a big success right out of the gate. The Mackles were selling property and building as fast as they could. Famous golfers were playing golf here and buying property. It must have been a amazing time. The risky project that no one else wanted was paying off big.
In the early ’70s, the environmental movement was just beginning to gain traction in the country. What was worthless swamp land was suddenly called wetlands and was now off limits to development. It didn’t matter that there were a gizzillion acres of the stuff just east of Marco. The wetlands and mangroves must be protected.
This was bad for the Mackle brothers. The arguments were made that the Marco Island development was damaging the habitats of certain species and the environmentalists were determined to stop it. Dredge and fill permits that were summarily granted by the Army Corps of Engineers at the beginning of the development were suddenly being withheld. The Mackles did everything they could to convince the government that building should continue but to no avail. No grandfathering, no nothin’.
The development was intended to be much larger than it is. It was to include Big Key, Hoors Island and areas inland around what is now Hammock Bay. It was killed. The big problem for the Mackles was they had already sold many of the lots in these undeveloped areas and used customer deposits to cash flow operations. Not for necessity – the company was always in good shape, they did this only to save interest expense. With the permit refusals, suddenly, they were forced to refund millions in deposits and this required the selling of some prime Marco Island real estate that they never intended to sell including their flagship hotel which is now the Marriott Resort.
Ultimately, when the government changed the rules in the middle of the game, the Mackle brothers lost. They were determined, though, to return the customer’s deposits if it killed them – and it did. It crushed the company beyond repair. To the Mackle’s credit, they didn’t declare bankruptcy which would have allowed them to salvage a portion of their once-powerful Deltona Corporation. They went down, victims of an environmental agenda. Forty-five years later, Marco Island is obviously an asset to mankind. Yes, some species may have been displaced but the Everglades and countless habitats just like Marco are literally a mile away.
The extinction of Deltona should have been considered as well. History shows that they were mindful of the environment as they understood it in those days. Not only was the company destoyed but countless jobs were as well that would still exist today.