A recently relocated family is interested in recreational opportunities and home decorating options. A first-time visitor wants to know about waterside dining. An entrepreneur is curious about the potential advantages of relocating.
This is a tiny sampling of why approximately 50,000 people annually enter the Cape Coral Welcome Center, nestled in Bernie Braden Park at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge. It provides, as one of its materials attests, “Everything you need to know while visiting or living in Cape Coral.” Due to the sharp rise in population and tourism in recent years, it are doing so at record rates.
“We’ve seen about a 60 percent increase in visitors to the Center over the last five years,” said Donna Germain, president and CEO of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce which operates the facility that opened in 1976.
Helpful information galore is arranged in separate sections. There are flyers and brochures (including coupons) covering area tourist attractions, boating and fishing, parks, organizations (such as the New Resident Club), businesses, healthcare providers and more. There are also resource guides and monthly and weekly periodicals.
Member companies are represented via brochures and business cards, and an interactive, touch-screen display. Chamber staff and volunteers, including some realtors, answer questions. Some materials are in Spanish and German.
“Our map of Cape Coral is definitely our best-seller,” said Germain. “Cape Coral is not easily navigated if you are new to the area, so these maps are a favorite among new residents and visitors.”
Large-screen map depictions also adorn the Center’s inside and outside walls.
“One of the most-asked questions other than advice on navigating roads is ‘Where can I find the burrowing owls?’”said Germain. Those wondering are directed to a nearby nest in the park and other local spots. They are also given materials, including one on the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.
Contacting the Cape Coral Sail & Power Squadron is often suggested to those with questions about canals.
Inquiries about bridge tolls and pickleball have increased recently, said Maria Ortiz, manager of the Welcome Center. “We keep up with everyone’s needs,” she said.
The Chamber, which recently upgraded its website, also organizes the Cape Coral Farmers Market, Surfside Sunset Market and Mid Cape Market — spearheaded by Chamber Business Manager Claudia St. Onge — Business After Hours events, Junior Leadership, Leadership Cape Coral, many special events, assists new businesses — including hosting ribbon-cutting events for home-based enterprises — publishes regular member periodicals and much more.
“Day-to-day work with members goes together well with our Welcome Center,” said Germain. “And volunteers are a huge help.”
Lisa Barrella started as a volunteer in 2011, then joined the staff as membership sales director in 2019.
“It’s meaningful,” she said. “It all clicked for me.”
Chamber staff and volunteers relish face-to-face contact and steering people toward the information they need.
“If we don’t have it here, we can steer them in the right direction,” said Germain.
What: Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center
Where: 2051 Cape Coral Parkway East
Contact: 239-549-6900, capecoralchamber.com.
More: A virtual welcome center is also located within FOS Furniture, 790 North Del Prado Blvd.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: From burrowing owls to pickleball, Cape Coral Welcome Center has all the answers