BIG CYPRESS — The snowbirds have come home to roost at the Big Cypress RV Resort and Campground; the number of RVs at the campground is a sure sign of winter.
The nip in the air doesn’t bother these guests, who hail from places where snow is a common sight including Canada, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. Many stay for months to bask in the warmth of the Sunshine State.
But the weather isn’t the only warmth these temporary residents feel during their BC stay; the guests create their own community filled with friendship, fun and fellowship.
“We bring them and they keep them here,” said Evie Mata, manager. “Guests love the peace and tranquility and the country atmosphere. This is their winter home; some have been coming here for 19 or 20 years.”
The campground features 110 sites; some on concrete pads and some on grass. The sites are more spacious, and thus more private, than at most campgrounds. There are enough activities to keep anyone busy, including shuffleboard, mini-golf, a swimming pool, two outdoor pool tables in chickees, a bocce ball court, horseshoes and a clubhouse.
Wildlife abounds; bears, turkeys, panthers, foxes, falcons, squirrels and alligators have all been spotted.
“The guests love it,” Mata said. “Most of them live in the country and they enjoy the wildlife. We are in the everglades and are in the animals’ space, so we are going to see them.”
Cheryl and Skip Skipper, of Ontario, Canada, are spending their fourth winter at the resort. Aside from an occasional trip to Fort Myers Beach or Everglades City, they plan to stay at the campground and enjoy its activities through March.
“This is our favorite place to camp, and we’ve camped in plenty of places in the U.S. and Canada,” Cheryl said. “We see the same people here every year, but there are always some new ones, and we know everyone by name. The staff here is exceptional and they go out of their way to make us feel welcome.”
The busiest time at the resort is November through the beginning of April. The average stay lasts three or four months but some stay for just a few weeks.
Experienced campers Roberta and Bob Paoni, of Springfield, Illinois, and Kristina and Tom Tognarelli, of Demotte, Indiana, are new to the resort and were getting acquainted with it and each other. So far, they like what they see.
“This area is similar to where we come from,” Kristina said. “This is a smaller campground, which makes a big difference. The sense of community here is much bigger.”
The Paonis stayed in South Bay last winter and decided to come to Big Cypress this year instead.
“The people in this park are the best I’ve run across,” Bob said.
“I think we’ve found our forever home away from home,” added Roberta.
Winter will end in a few months and like all migratory birds, these snowbirds will head north for the summer. But until then, the campground and the reservation will remain filled with guests.