This year’s Pioneer Days theme is "Beach Party, Englewood Style". It makes sense. Englewood is known for its beaches and people love the beach. But, it seems that what people don’t love is the idea of changing the town’s name from Englewood to Englewood Beach.
Stories in the newspaper, radio and of course, social media, have warned that in an effort to promote tourism and put our best beach forward, Englewood could be renamed Englewood Beach. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in Florida. In 1941 the town of Boynton changed its name to Boynton Beach and Riviera became Riviera Beach.
Ed Hill, executive director of the Englewood Area Chamber of Commerce, calls the issue a “non-story.” Said Hill, “The topic is nothing more than something that was mentioned as a possible way to help Charlotte County maximize their new “Englewood Beach” promotion strategy.”
Judging by that “promotion strategy” on the Charlotte Harbor Convention and Visitor’s Board website, and its new logo, the only two places in Charlotte County are Punta Gorda and Englewood Beach. There’s no mention of Port Charlotte, Murdock or Englewood.
Most would agree that the Englewood area, and it is an “area” not a town or city, is already complicated enough. First, Englewood is divided by a county line, with some residents living in Charlotte County and others in Sarasota County. Ask any parent of school-age children how much fun it is to have your first-grader following the Sarasota County school calendar while your sixth-grader is on Charlotte County time.
Then there are all the areas within the area, Gulf Cove, Rotonda West, Placida, Grove City, East Englewood, Olde Englewood… And you have Manasota Key, where you’ll find Englewood Beach, or to be specific, Englewood Beach at Chadwick Park. That’s in Charlotte County, while the other two public beaches, Blind Pass Beach and Manasota Beach are in Sarasota County. Many of the residents insist that they live in Manasota Key, FL, but according to the post office, they live in Englewood. Confused yet? Ken Brennen thinks this is the bigger problem, “Let’s incorporate instead. City of Englewood sounds like more growth potential to me.”
In true Pioneer Days fashion, Mark Robbins feels that history is more important than tourism. “Englewood was named by the Nichols brothers in honor of the Chicago neighborhood Englewood. Renaming it to Englewood Beach will take away the true history of the actual name.” Janice Tate, who is one of Englewood’s true pioneers, agrees. “Take pride in what we were given. Give Englewood its rightful place in history.”
Some however, didn’t mind the idea of having an Englewood and an Englewood Beach, like Clearwater, Miami and St. Petersburg. “We have an “Englewood Beach.” It’s the part of town that “has” a beach,” said recent transplant Loren Davidson. Barbara Harrington says she has only been to the beach about six times in the 29 years she’s lived in Englewood. “We are so much more than the beach and should keep the original name.”
Others not only have a problem with the idea of a name change, but with the idea of spreading the word about Englewood as a tourist destination. “Englewood is nice because it’s not plastered everywhere as a big tourist spot. The somewhat leftover quaintness is nice and enjoyable. Growth is inevitable but let it happen on its own,” said Lane Kelly. “Can we leave Englewood alone please?” asked Erin La Vallee. “They keep pushing to bring in more tourists and we are going to end up like Ft. Myers beach.” Several people voiced concern that housing costs are already so high that the young adults who grew up here, can’t afford to put down roots.
Jennifer Evans was a bit more adamant. “No. A thousand times No. My family has been in Englewood since the early 1900’s; trust me, the tourists are finding us just fine without some silly name change.”
Joel VanCleave is among a handful of dissenters. “People wouldn’t even come to Englewood without the beaches … the beach is the only thing worth going for.” And long-time resident Heidemarie Burke makes the point that changing the name would “distinguish us from the Englewood towns in other states.” Beverly Anderson adds “If the name change helps bring in more tourists to stimulate our economy and help the businesses around here grow, then I say go for it.”
And if one day, Englewood goes the way of Boynton or Riviera, Jacki Kyner has her own plan. “I live in Englewood, not Englewood Beach. If they change it, I’m still only writing Englewood. It’s not the tourist town, it’s ours.”