All it takes is one person to make a difference. Like an unexpected donor that allowed us to enhance a family education program or another who enabled us to purchase a bike for a rental program that in turn generates additional revenue for our parks – the gift that keeps giving. And sometimes, all it takes is one person to dream of a community history museum in a beautifully restored, unvisited lighthouse.
This dream began, “In the summer of 1989, over a glass of wine and Marnie’s special cheese biscuits, according to Daniel Godwin.” Marnie told him and fellow Beacon staff person, Marilyn Hoeckel, of her dream to turn the Boca Grande Lighthouse into a museum full of Charlotte Harbor history. Marnie Banks at the time was the Founder of the Boca Beacon. Her one idea spurred many others to quickly join forces. However, the lighthouse was located in a state park which created a problem since they made decisions for all their properties. So Marnie did a little research and found if a Citizen Support Organization (CSO) was formed, it would give them the ability to create, support and manage the museum. In 1989, Barrier Island Parks Society (BIPS), a 501(c) 3 non-profit was born and by 1999, the museum was created. Unfortunately, Marnie died in an accident in 1991 and never saw the museum completed. However, Hoeckel said, “…Marnie didn’t live to see her dream turn into reality. But I know she would have been thrilled to see it and to see how BIPS has helped improve our local parks and the experience the parks’ many visitors have when they visit.”
Today, BIPS still manages and operates the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum which welcomes over 30,000 visitors a year. We currently support four state parks – Cayo Costa, Don Pedro Island and Land Base, Gasparilla Island and Stump Pass Beach. We manage two gift shops – Cayo Costa State Park and the Museum Gift Shop, a Bike Rental program at Cayo Costa and a Kayak program at Don Pedro. And, we support 25 educational programs we conduct for hundreds of children who visit the museum and our parks every year, and several community and fundraising events we hope you enjoy.
These programs and events would not succeed without the countless hours of our volunteers and our partnership with Gasparilla Island Administration (GIA). The GIA is the park office located in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island and reports to The State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. The park service and BIPS continually meet to create new dreams like a museum-environmental center at Cayo Costa, and ideas like a new museum entrance to enhance the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum, and there are countless others too many to list. The mantra in our partnership is “Let’s make the museum and our parks the best they can be!” We do this out of passion for the museum and parks, and our sense of responsibility to the community we love. And, of course none of this would be possible without our members and donor support…nor Marnie’s dream.
Our commitment to you every day is to conserve and preserve our environment and local history through education and outreach. And, we will continue to work hard, fight the good fight and do our best to make you proud. We also hope you will be by our side as a partner, like GIA. Remember, all it takes is one person to make a difference and that person could be you.
Excerpts from this text were taken from the ‘You can’t be a beacon if your light don’t shine’ article written by Delores Savas for the Boca Beacon. The article in its entirety can be found at www.bocabeacon.com. Many thanks to The Boca Beacon staff, our Founders and the Boca Grande Fishing Guide Association for their continued support of Barrier Island Parks Society – May your lights always shine!