Richard Hemis says goodbye to a longtime neighbor the night before he and his wife, Gloria, head off for Phoenix in their overloaded station wagon.
The Hemises had spent more than 20 winters at the Gulf Park RV community in Bonita Springs, enjoying the warmth of the Florida sun and the eight other families that lived there. Every year they looked forward to fleeing the unforgiving cold of their Minnesota hometown of Hillman.
They remember card games that went late into the night, boating trips with children and dogs, fishing from the dock — even gathering together to witness space shuttle launches, including the day Challenger exploded in the Florida sky.
Hemis says he always figured that one day their coveted winters here, spent with good friends and now extended families, would come to an end. “Where else in Florida would you find a trailer park across the street from the beach with dock access?” he says.
And it did end recently, when developers purchased the property to make way for the Quail West development. Ultimately, the trailers and the residents must go.
With multi-story mansions now being built on the properties next to the park, the culture of the Gulf Park community is changing rapidly. The end of an era.
The bottom line for Hemis: “You have to be a millionaire now to enjoy Florida.”