Posts by Juli

Citrus Park Community Vision Coming To Reality

The new, long-term vision neighborhood improvements at Citrus Park RV & Manufactured Home community are currently underway. 

As their home page states, “Citrus Park is a unique oasis situated in the heart of Southwest Florida that caters to the active lifestyle for those who want to enjoy all the Gulf Coast has to offer.” This seasonal community nestled on the eastern outskirts of the City of Bonita Springs lies quiet during the off season between April and October, then explodes with activity during season from November through March.

This 55 and over community of 3,500 plus residents on 401 acres is almost self-sufficient with their own water and wastewater treatment plants, a community center, and recreation center with large heated swimming pools for programmed activities. Outdoor recreation opportunities include tennis, pickleball, bocce ball, pètanque, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts, a driving range, and community softball fields with a concession stand, which are all well attended each day by the seasonal residents.

Citrus Park, as its name suggests, was established in 1970 by Erich Trost as a mobile and manufactured home park and RV resort amidst the citrus groves of Southwest Florida. The ownership and management of the park was passed down over the years to family members. In 2019, the park was purchased by CMH Investment Management, LLC, and together with the management firms of Real Projectives, LLC and Murex Properties, they formed a future vision for the park. The new owners retained Johnson Engineering as their consultant to assist in the design, permitting, and construction oversight of the future site improvements. The design team realized that the aesthetic impact of initial park improvements would need to be swift and bold enough to create a buzz among residents and the local community.

Johnson Engineering’s landscape architectural design team wasted no time meeting with the larger Carlyle design team to gain a complete understanding of the future park vision. Within a week of the initial design discussions our Landscape Architecture team created a long-term phasing plan to bring Citrus Park into the 21st century. Our team presented the landscape design and irrigation plan and received immediate approval to implement the first phase of improvements. Phase 1 of the plan included improving the areas of highest visual impact for returning residents, which were along the main entry road, Trost Boulevard, and around the community’s recreational areas.

Our landscape team found that the existing hedgerows between Trost Boulevard and the existing residential homesites, retained over the years as a visual buffer, had been poorly maintained and consisted of undesirable invasive and exotic vegetation. Our team literally cleared the way for the new landscaping by quickly obtaining a tree removal permit from the City of Bonita Springs for the hedgerows along Trost Boulevard and the adjoining canals, to be replaced with a continuous, uniform, and manageable shrub hedge and shade trees, creating the backdrop for the main landscaping improvements.

The newly implemented entry drive landscaping now includes rhythmic groupings of Royal Palms reinforced by colorful native and Florida Friendly shrub massings under the new palm groupings to create the desired tropical paradise as envisioned by the new owners’ design team.

Our team also designed and permitted a new lighting plan to replace outdated lights on wooden utility poles. The new lighting plan, of decorative LED pendant lights with banners, received approval from the City and will be implemented in the next few weeks.

As the Citrus Park aesthetic improvements move forward, Johnson Engineering’s Landscape Architects will play a large role in designing landscape lighting for the newly installed plantings. The Johnson Engineering team will continue providing master planning and design services for the future improvements phases, which will encompass the existing court renovations, new play courts, lake improvements, lighting improvements, and other visual upgrades throughout the community.

The next phase of planned improvements require the support of our in-house civil engineers, electrical engineers, planners, and utility engineers to develop site plan improvements. As the Johnson Engineering team continues working to improve the parks’ amenities and infrastructure, both aesthetics and long-term maintenance will be our focus. We look forward to hearing the residents’ reactions as they begin to return to their newly renovated community this fall.

For more information, contact Jeff Nagle, RLA at [email protected].

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Two New Libraries Open in Lee County

The North Fort Myers and Bonita Springs Public Libraries are now open for readers! Last year Lee County was fortunate enough to be able to replace both aging facilities with brand new buildings.

Both libraries have more than doubled their square footage, offering patrons more room and a brighter state-of-the-art space. In addition to the new automatic materials handling system, the facilities offer public computers, as well as large meeting rooms with audiovisual capabilities. Each library now features storytime areas, gaming spaces, outdoor reading spaces, and courtyards.

Johnson Engineering was the civil engineer for these libraries, working closely with the architect, BSSW, on both projects at the same time. Our wide variety of in-house services helped expedite the project through the simultaneous coordination of the survey, design, and permitting of the parking, drainage, utilities, and other site infrastructure throughout the complexes.

We are fortunate to have been a part of these projects that have positively impacted our community. It’s great to see how important reading and literacy is to Lee County.

For more information, contact Tyler Sharpe, PE, at [email protected].

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The 35th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference

The 35th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference was hosted by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island on January 9-11, 2020. The theme for the 2020 conference was “America’s Everglades: All Hands On Deck,” an acknowledgement that all interests must work together to protect the Everglades.

A great example of the theme was displayed during one of the final panels that focused on the importance of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and sea grass to the health of our lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal marine habitats. Moderated by Brett Fitzgerald from the Angler Action Foundation, the panel covered everything from importance of SAV habitats in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River and estuary, to the massive sea grass die-offs in Florida Bay from the lack of freshwater flows to the estuaries. David Ceilley, Senior Aquatic Ecologist at Johnson Engineering, has been working on restoration of SAV habitat in the Caloosahatchee River since 2002 and presented the results of several pilot studies and a much larger ongoing effort with the Angler Action Foundation and Sea & Shoreline, with State Funding of $1,000,000. One common element in all the presentations was the importance of building and maintaining partnerships in order to raise awareness, make progress towards restoration, and most importantly, to obtain political support and the critical funding needed to protect and restore habitat.

If you have questions or would like additional information about the SAV restoration projects that Johnson Engineering is involved with, please contact David Ceilley at [email protected].

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Create an Online Map System with Little to no GIS Staff

Johnson Engineering offers ArcGIS online mobile mapping solutions. We were the first Florida company to achieve ESRI’s ArcGIS Online Specialty level recognition. We can make your GIS data more available to your staff via a secure online system so that it can be easily viewed and edited by smartphones, tablets, and web browsers, making that data more useful and accessible. This is a low-cost approach without the need for an in-house GIS staff.

Our construction engineering & inspection (CEI) team is currently utilizing this modern technology on two Lee County projects, Estero Boulevard and Homestead Road. A GIS base map is created for the project based off the original plan digital linework, after which any combination of information can be incorporated into the map as the project progresses. Useful information may include digital photographs, shop drawings, equipment information, test results, etc. One particularly helpful aspect on these projects is in the generation and tracking of “punch lists.” Project deficiencies can easily be documented, located, mapped, and the status tracked with this GIS application. This is another example of utilizing technology to more quickly and efficiently improve our community.

For more information on mobile mapping solutions, contact Mike Lohr, PSM, at [email protected].

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It Took a Village, to Build the Village of Estero

After 33 community meetings, determining a boundary, and obtaining legislative approval of a ballot question, voters went to the ballot box in November 2014 and approved a referendum to incorporate the Estero area of Lee County as a Village. On December 31, 2014, the incorporation became effective, and much more work began. 

Once incorporated, the formula for Villagehood required rapid formation of a government. In quick fashion, an election for a seven-member Village Council was organized, and the inaugural Council meeting was held in March 2015. New Councilmembers faced some basic challenges of starting a new government, such as: Where will public meetings and offices be accommodated? Who will serve as staff to manage, budget, and maintain records? Answers came quickly with the renting of space from the Estero Fire District Headquarters, and the contracting and hiring of an Interim Manager and a Village Attorney immediately, followed by a Clerk and a Community Development Director in June 2015.

Another set of obstacles for the new Village leaders was the establishment of governing plans and regulations. Florida Statutes allow for the transition to occur from a County to a municipal comprehensive plan over a three-year period for newly incorporated jurisdictions. The Estero community’s longtime commitment to planning for its future earned it the nickname the “Village with a Vision,” and with the clock ticking, it was critical for the Village to craft its own comprehensive plan to establish the community’s state-mandated blueprint for its future.

In 2016, the Village selected our team of planners, ecologists, mappers, and engineers along with LaRue Planning to prepare the Village’s first Comprehensive Plan. Made up of nine elements, the Comprehensive Plan guides the future development patterns, transportation networks, housing, infrastructure, conservation and coastal management, recreation and open space, intergovernmental coordination, capital improvements, and public school facilities within the Village for the next twenty years.

To prepare Estero’s first Comprehensive Plan, we needed to know where the community is going, and where it has been. We performed a full evaluation of the Lee County Comprehensive Plan before crafting a new document suited for the smaller scale municipality. Public engagement, visioning, and surveys kicked off in early 2017 to inform the guiding principles of the plan. Through these efforts, we learned that parks, open space, central city development, community character, walkability, and environmental protection are keys to the Village’s identity. Also important to Village leaders was the quality of its comprehensive plan in form and function. Not for gathering dust on a shelf, this Comprehensive Plan is designed to be an understandable, user-friendly, and useful tool for its citizens.

Our GIS staff, engineers, landscape architects, and planners helped engage in community visioning, prepare maps, formulate data and analysis, and develop goals objectives and policies to make the vision workable and adaptable for the future. In keeping with Estero’s tradition of engagement with the citizenry, dozens of workshops were held before the Planning and Zoning Board and Village Council to review the themes and content of each element of the Plan. Final adoption hearings were in 2018.

Following adoption by the Village, the State Department of Economic Opportunity reviewed and issued its Notice of Intent to find the Plan “In Compliance” with state regulation. A petition for administrative hearing was then filed challenging the Comprehensive Plan. A compliance agreement and zoning amendment for the petitioner who filed the challenge was adopted by Village Council on September 25, 2019. With the issuance of a final order determining compliance by the State, this Comprehensive Plan is now effective.

Effectiveness of its plan and the fifth anniversary of incorporation gives the Village with a Vision a lot to celebrate as this decade ends and a new one begins. For more information, contact Laura DeJohn, AICP at [email protected].

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Breaking Ground for Gateway High School

The Lee County School District recently broke ground on the new Gateway High School. The 55.7-acre campus is located east of I-75 at the corner of State Road 82 and Griffin Drive.

This will be the County’s 15th high school built to help educate our teens in this fast growing community. The school will feature cyber security, construction, veterinary, and culinary academies as part of the curriculum.

Johnson Engineering was selected as the civil engineer and will assist the lead architect, BSSW, with the overall site design for the complex, which include a stormwater management plan, environmental assessments, utility infrastructure, roadway and parking areas, and permitting. Working closely with Lee County School District staff, BSSW and the rest of the design team, we will help to make sure the school is on track to be ready for students in the fall of 2021.

For more information, contact Dana Hume at [email protected].

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Johnson Engineering Presents Findings at the ICOET Conference

This past September, Johnson Engineering’s wildlife biologist, Dr. Jennifer Korn, attended the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) in Sacramento, California. There she presented the results from the project Johnson Engineering recently completed for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One. The study used remote cameras to monitor wildlife crossings and existing bridge structures for use by wildlife, especially Florida panther, Florida black bear, and white-tailed deer. This data was then analyzed in an effort to determine optimal structural design that is also the most cost-effective for future wildlife crossings and retrofitted bridges.

The conference included presentations from wildlife and transportation professionals across the globe discussing topics such as structural design of wildlife crossings, policy, and monitoring methods The conference location was of special importance as California attempts to build a new wildlife overpass (at Liberty Canyon) near Los Angeles where mountain lions struggle with loss of habitat connectivity due to large highways. Insights gained from this conference will supplement our own information gathered about wildlife usage of existing bridge structures in Florida, as Johnson Engineering continues to assist on transportation projects and future design/placement of roads and wildlife crossings.

Jennifer also provided a viewing of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition mini-trek film titled “The Last Green Thread”. This film featured her with the expedition members on location at the Reedy Creek Bridge on I-4. The film is available to view online at https://youtu.be/chjolIiforw.

For more information, contact Dr. Jennifer Korn, Ph.D. at [email protected].

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FGCU Breaks Ground on new Academic Building #9

Florida Gulf Coast University’s newest academic building is underway. The team broke ground on Academic Building 9 (AB9), the future home of Integrated Watershed and Coastal Studies, nicknamed “The Water School,” which is slated to open for students the fall semester of 2021.
The new building will be the largest on campus, located in the main campus area near the existing Cohen Center. Academic studies will focus on environmental sciences, STEM (science, technology, environmental and mathematics), and integrating water resource and coastal studies into existing programs. This facility will also provide additional space for research and teaching labs, as well as classroom space.

Working together with RG Architects, Johnson Engineering will provide the overall site design, stormwater management plan, environmental, utilities, and parking areas, as well as associated permitting.

Our long-standing history with the University started in August of 1997 with the first ground-breaking. Many FGCU students have interned at our firm during their summer breaks and most were hired as full-time employees once they graduated. Today, 15% of our employees are FGCU alumni and interns. We look forward to the potential graduates this new academic program will produce and bring to us in the future.

For more information, contact Dana Hume, P.E. at [email protected].

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Supporting Lee County Port Authority’s Aviation Day

Johnson Engineering was a proud sponsor of Lee County Port Authority’s (LCPA) 2019 Aviation Day held in November. The annual event held at Page Field airport is a free family friendly aviation-themed affair to help highlight the value brought to our community by aviation and LCPA airports – Southwest Florida International Airport and Page Field. Among the aircrafts on display, plane and helicopter rides, local airport police and fire department personnel provided demonstrations to show how they continue to keep us safe in the skies.

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Steve Morrison: 42 Years of Dedication & Commitment

Few people can say they had a hand in helping shape a region, but Steve Morrison can. His 42-year career with Johnson Engineering gave him the opportunity to help our community become what it is today. 

Born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida, it was always Steve Morrison’s dream to become a pilot in the United States Air Force. As soon as he graduated from North Fort Myers High School in 1973, Steve ventured off to South Carolina to The Citadel in pursuit of his dream. Halfway through his schooling, he realized there were so many pilots waiting for flight training school, that there was no guarantee he would have the opportunity to actually get to fly, prompting him to rethink things and focus on his major of civil engineering.

After graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree in May 1977 and having passed his Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, Steve came back to Fort Myers for the summer. His plan was to pursue his master’s degree in construction management from Georgia Tech that fall, but as fate would have it, his part-time summer job ended up turning into a 42-year career with Johnson Engineering.

Steve began working for Johnson Engineering the summer of 1977 as a survey rodman just to earn money and get some experience before returning to school. Steve spent a month or so on the survey crew, when then president, Forrest Banks, PE, asked Steve to fill in for Dan Dickey, who was going on vacation. Dan was right in the middle of the Eastwood Golf Course construction project, so Steve moved from doing survey field work to engineering construction inspections.

Forrest saw something in Steve and didn’t want to lose him, so he asked him to stay on for a year and offered him a company sponsored scholarship to earn his master’s degree. Since it looked like he now had a job in Florida, Steve accepted and decided to attend the University of Florida (UF), and within one year, earned his Master’s in Engineering, specializing in water and wastewater utility design.

When Steve returned to work, Forrest asked him to help on a project for the master plan of the Charlotte County Airport, now known as the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD). Forrest placed a large stack of FAA/FDOT manuals and books on Steve’s desk and told him to read up! Steve spent countless hours educating himself about FAA regulations, which later helped Johnson Engineering become the Airport’s General Consultant. He became the design engineer for the Charlotte County Development Authority, where he designed the runway 3/21 extension, taxiway improvements, the replacement of the airport sewers, and the force main along Piper Road, connecting the I-75 rest area and the Airport to the City of Punta Gorda.

Within four years, Steve earned his Florida Professional Engineering license (PE) and was made a partner of the firm. Throughout the 1980s, the company transformed quite a bit with the introduction of computers and cell phones. Steve made a name for himself at the company, working as a project engineer on many of the area’s most recognizable projects such as the Florida Cities Water Company, Sanibel Sewer System, the Edison Mall, Shell Point Retirement Village, HealthPark, Gateway, and Babcock Ranch, to name a few.

In 1997, Steve was elected the company’s fourth president. He ran the company through the best of times and the worst of times. During this time, the company reorganized its management structure, having seven board members with an elected president. Under his direction, the company also created seven distinct specialized market groups, each led by one market leader for development, surveying & mapping, transportation, water resources, utilities, environmental, planning & landscape architecture.

Throughout the 2000s, the company thrived, more than doubling its employee count from 137 to 320 team members in a mere eight years. The company was named in ZweigWhite’s annual list of the 100 Fastest Growing Engineering/Architecture Firms in the United States for three consecutive years.

Under Steve’s leadership, the company had a healthy momentum moving forward as new services were added to complement our civil engineering work, the addition of new branch offices, and even a new corporate headquarters expansion in 2007.

The year 2008 proved to be the most challenging year for the company, and for Steve. The economic downturn forced many companies out of business. Steve was forced to make many difficult decisions to keep the firm from also going out of business. Steve, along with the company’s board and market leaders, came up with various ways to cut operational costs, initiating team member furlough days, imposed salary reductions, and eventually had to lay off more than half the company’s team members. “It was heartbreaking having to let go of some really great people”, said Steve. In the end, the company was fortunate to rebound from the recession and began thriving again. To date, we were able to rehire 11% of those former team members who were laid off during that taxing year.

After getting to the light at the end of this tunnel, Steve decided it was time to let the next generation of folks lead the company into the future. After 15 successful years serving as president, in 2012, Steve passed the torch to current president, Lonnie Howard, PE and Board Chairman Kevin Winter, PE. This transition was planned and accomplished over a year’s time to strategically shift responsibilities to Lonnie and Kevin. Steve was not ready to retire yet and wanted to return to his role as project engineer for a few of his major clients he had developed over the years.

Fast forward to 2019 and now after 42 years at Johnson Engineering, Steve decided he was ready to move onto the next chapter of his life…retirement. He and his wife Lisa packed up their Newmar motor home, with a Jeep Wrangler in tow and set off on the adventure of a lifetime traveling around the United States.

We wish Steve well in his journey and thank him for his commitment and dedication to Johnson Engineering.

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