Cape Kids — City Leaders: Jessica Cosden, Cape Coral Councilmember, lifelong Cape resident
“I was born here, but it’s a funny story. There was no maternity ward at Cape Coral Hospital at the time so I was born in an ambulance in the Lee Memorial parking lot. They had to call an ambulance because all of the rush hour traffic was going over the Caloosahatchee Bridge, which was one of the only ways to get into Fort Myers, and I was born at 7:42 in the morning.
“I’ve lived in Cape Coral my whole life other than going to college in Jupiter and in Korea for thee months. As a kid, we lived in an area of southwest Cape Coral that looked a lot like what certain parts northwest Cape Coral looks like now — super sparse, not a lot of density. I remember going out and playing all day with my brother and the neighborhood kids and coming home for dinner. All of the neighbors knew each other. There were a lot more Australian pines in Cape Coral then. At some point we determined they were an invasive species and started cutting them down but there were a lot of them in my neighborhood. I have a lot of fond memories of building forts under them and the sound of the wind and the needles I still remember. It’s sad to see them getting cut down but I understand why we do it, but that was a big part of my childhood, just playing outside.
“To go anywhere — to eat good food or to shop for clothing — you had to go to Fort Myers. The Edison Mall was a really big trip, a big deal. Getting there was obnoxious because there was no Midpoint Bridge, it was either the Cape Coral Bridge or the Caloosahatchee Bridge, so it was a big trek to go into town.
“A lot of my childhood I remember was in the ’90s and a lot was changing then. In the schools, they were ordered to desegregate by the federal government and it never was actually finalized until 1999 (locally) and I think a lot of (memories) have to do with busing; they were experimenting with busing and just changing schools around and so as a result of that, I went to four different elementary schools because they were shifting zones and things like that. I felt so sorry for the kids from Fort Myers who got bused into Cape Coral and had to be on the bus sometimes for 2-3 hours.
“As a teenager, development in the city started picking up. I remember the first Target being built; it was like a celebration for my family. It’s still exciting when new things get built in Cape Coral, but I think you live here today and not have to leave the city for any good or service. That wasn’t the case then. I remember when Veterans Parkway was Miracle, and it was a road that was simple and now we see what it has become. North Cape Coral used to be a bunch of empty land and it’s where I learned to drive before houses were out there.
“My family owned Penguin Pools for years. My grandfather started it in the ’70s and my dad joined in the ’80s — that’s why my parents moved here. I have a lot of memories hanging out with my dad as a kid and watching how the business was run.
“My grandparents were adventurous and came here in the late ’70s to start a new business and my father and mother came to help in 1981. He sold it in 2003. I’m sure at one point Penguin Pools was one of the only pool companies in the area.
“In terms of growth and development, I think a lot of it has to do with just the beauty of the place that we live in. A lot of people have the need to be near water. I think a lot of the growth can be attributed to our natural beauty but also with good leadership and good planning — even though there was some poor planning, because pre-platted communities always struggle with issues like transportation, building and development. We have our work cut out for us as leaders.
“We’ve created this beautiful environment with manmade canals, and we need to take care of it as leaders. It is a Waterfront Wonderland and I love living here. I’m not even a boater and I love living near water and I think a lot of people feel the same way.
“I think Cape Coral was a unique place to grow up. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. I’m glad that I grew up here and I’m glad to live in this place where I have all of these great memories from my childhood.
“Going forward, I hope that we can balance this rapid growth and be methodical as we continue to build out. I just hope in this next 50 years we have good leaders who continue to think about the future in their decisions and just not the present.”
— Compiled by CJ HADDAD