Koreshan appeal heats up for summer

Live-in volunteers trade work for camp

Spend some time this summer at the Koreshan State Historic Site campground and you’ll find yourself sharing the nature trail with grazing gopher tortoises.

Take along a canoe, small boat or kayak and thread your way down the meandering Estero River to Estero Bay and Mound Key.

Spend a weekend and take a narrated tour of the historic site where members of the Koreshan religious sect built their community in the wilderness in the late 1890s.

Or, be a modern-day adventurer like Amy Ferguson, who, along with her husband and two children, is a live-in volunteer at the park for the summer.

In exchange for cleaning bathrooms, keeping up the campgrounds and other duties as needed around the park, the family stays free at their host campsite.

The converted Blue Bird school bus brought the family of four from Paulden, Ariz., on May 1. How long they will stay is undetermined at this time.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Ferguson said.

Her father-in-law lives in North Port, and staying in Estero provides her children time to get to know their grandfather.

And it provides her and her husband time to think about whether they want to live in Florida.

“Me, I must have some gypsy blood because I just want to go,” Ferguson said.

This is the first time Koreshan has had summer volunteers, said park assistant manager Karen Lacivita.

South Florida’s high-humidity and high-temperature summers have not drawn volunteers before now, she said.

Ferguson shrugs.

“We sweat back in Arizona too,” she said. “I guess we sweat a little more here.”

This is the time of year when locals discover the park. And on weekends it is clear that the locals know why the park is so popular in winter among the tourists and snowbirds who bring their campers.

The draw is the privacy of individual campsites, nestled among the vegetation, so each site feels like it’s out in the woods.

But just a short bicycle ride across U.S. 41 at the traffic light is a shopping center with a Publix grocery store, movie rentals, restaurants, banks and a liquor store.

A few miles away are outlet stores at Miromar Outlets, and south on U.S. 41 is Bonita Springs and dozens of restaurants to choose from.

The major summer holiday weekends — Fourth of July and then Labor Day — will see the park filled to capacity, Lacivita said.

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