Lavern Norris Gaynor
Lavern Norris Gaynor was born into a family where community stewardship was not simply one’s duty, it was a way of life. Coming from a pioneering family in Naples, who help found the historical society, hospital and conservancy, the Norris family purchased countless acres which were used for both conservation and public enjoyment. Mrs. Gaynor has followed her family’s tradition by continuing to support children, education, and the city’s historical memories.
How would you define a cultural landscape?
Six months ago I had never heard of the term cultural landscapes. My partner in a mission that seemed almost insurmountable brought the name and its language to my attention. After reading the information, and discussing the possibilities, I knew this was the perfect new paradigm language we needed to help our community understand the economic and social values in defining the features and characteristic that characterize the City’s of Naples. We use the term not just for specific landscape, but for an entire area – Old Naples.
Why did you get involved in the landscape that was threatened in your community?
This past spring significant changes affecting our community brought me to the realization that the faster we grow and change – the closer we come to losing a connection to our local history, to its meaning, and to its benefits for grounding our children in who they are in relationship to their community. The changes that are affecting our local historical area were done so with no defining criteria. Two factions were always battling – property rights and historical preservation. A commonality had to be found – something that brought people together – not pulled them apart. The landscape that is being threatened is our city streetscape and actually the entire old area of the city. Sometimes when life moves so fast, people need a little re-direction. We wanted to provide a new way to look at something that is very valuable to the city, our County and even Southwest Florida. How people feel about Old Naples is the reason why Naples was born. We have forgotten that and we just wanted to rekindle that memory.
How did your understanding of this landscape change as a result of your advocacy efforts?
At first we were trying to be so diplomatic so as not to do harm to our efforts. Then, a blind flash of the obvious hit us: the “real” charm is the old area – the authentic area. This is what people love about Naples- it’s what they love about any area. So we deeply understand that the most significant cultural landscape in the city of Naples is the old town – the historic district and all of her authentic charm. It holds both enormous economic and social value for our city.
Did the understanding of others change as well? If so how?
Even though this effort is still new, we have captured the imagination of many factions in our community. It offers another way to think about our identity and this thinking has sparked a significant interest. Our Breakfast Review, which culminated after a three-day evaluation, will be posted on a website along with a PowerPoint lecture to further facilitate the understanding.
What is the message that you would like to give our readers that may inspire them to make a difference.
It is never too late to find your voice – it is never too late to make a difference. And most importantly, never let any one stop you from following what you know in you heart is the right thing to do. There will be many naysayers and people who will want to downplay your efforts. You may not know exactly how things are going to work, so be open to change and potential. Keep your intentions pure, your mission in focus and make small incremental steps every day. Oh, having a “Jack Russell” on your side is also a must.