The History of Lee County Archers – A Legacy of Excellence
Located in the attractive realm of Southwest Florida, Lee County Archers (LCA) stands as a beacon of archery mastery, boasting one of the largest memberships in the entire state.
Born from humble origins as Fort Myers Bow Hunters in Cape Coral, the club’s journey began in the late 1960s and soon found a new home at Terry Park in Fort Myers, where it hosted a night league.
The club’s true transformation took place when one of its visionary founding members, Ted Baumann, embarked on a quest to locate and secure a more desirable piece of land. Through collaboration with Lee County officials, a lease agreement was struck, granting the club exclusive use of 35 acres in the back-half of Lee County’s Nalle Grade Park — land that has since become the present location of Lee County Archers.
Developing this remote and untamed property was not easy. Accessing the terrain was a challenge in itself, requiring four-wheeled drive vehicles to navigate through knee-deep water and treacherous paths. Undeterred, the club’s dedicated members persevered, led by relentless Mike Ball, the club’s historian.
Amidst these trials, Pop and Skip Barker emerged as unsung heroes, diligently constructing target backstops by painstakingly hand digging dirt piles. The club’s original targets, masterfully crafted by George Weymouth, featured 16 layers of waxed cardboard intricately shaped into lifelike renditions of animal forms. These remarkable artifacts remain on display in the club’s workshop as testaments to the club’s enduring legacy.
The main club area, nestled just south of the multi-target pavilion, became the heart of the club’s activities. A tin roof shelter provided protection from the rain, while remnants of a water well and a relocated outhouse — a large white building that was previously situated on the Sanibel causeway — added a touch of nostalgia. Eventually replaced by porta potties, these structures served as reminders of the club’s evolving journey.
As the club grew, plans for a new pavilion began to take shape in the early 1980s and in an unexpected turn of events, the County took the reins and constructed the current pavilion with the 20-yard range in 1989.
Lee County Archer’s foray into the world of 3D archery marked a turning point in its storied history. With the acquisition of used animal models, the club’s 3D program flourished under the guidance of Lee Coleman. The club’s reputation for an extraordinary 3D range attracted archers from across the state, solidifying its position as a premier destination for exhilarating and challenging competition.
Over the years, the club embraced new disciplines and undertook remarkable endeavors. In 1985, a center section was added to the workshop, thanks to the generosity of Ron Earl, who donated materials for a storage building and an original kitchen. The club’s interest in field archery grew, with members including Ty Larsen, Ben Brown, and Phil Westhoven leading the charge. The front target field was planned and painstakingly developed in 1989, followed by the establishment of the rear target field. The East range was constructed in 1990 under the leadership of Phil Westhoven and in the early 2000’s Ty Larsen and Ben Brown spearheaded the development and construction of the West Range.
The club’s commitment to innovation led it to the adoption of the American 900 round in 2003, while a water well drilled by the County in 2008 ensured a sustainable water source for the club. In 2009, then President Ralph Galatz spearheaded the purchase of a new kitchen and bathroom, expertly framed and dry-walled by Ty Larsen, with plumbing assistance from Kevin Roberts. Tirelessly, Ty and a devoted team of volunteers constructed a magnificent two-floor tree stand.
Noteworthy individuals played crucial roles in the club’s transformative journey. Fred Stahl took charge of the kitchen, earning him the honorary title of “chief cook and bottle washer,” commemorated on a plaque adorning the kitchen door as, “Fred’s Stall.” The visionary leadership of Ben Brown proved instrumental in transforming the club from a bow hunting-focused entity to a true archery club, highlighted by the creation of a remarkable 28-target field range and the hosting of state events. To accommodate the club’s growing collection of 3D animals, two large containers were added in 2002, bidding farewell to an aging school bus that was previously used for storage.
The club’s commitment to enhancing the member experience persisted. In 2016, Bill Ziegler oversaw the addition of a new multi-target pavilion, providing shooting areas even during inclement weather. The following year, Mark Rogers, Pat Hunt, and their skilled crew constructed a tree stand in the northwest corner of the property, further enriching the club’s offerings.
In 2017, the County embarked on a water filtration project that reshaped the front of the club’s property. Despite initial concerns about accessibility, the changes proved beneficial. The front field target stands were meticulously removed, rebuilt, and set back in place. A new berm acted as a safety buffer and efficiently diverted surface water, keeping the club’s grounds dry. Moreover, the project necessitated the relocation of the 900 range near the park entrance, allowing the front pavilion to take on its new role as the shooting line.
Throughout its remarkable history, Lee County Archers has been fueled by the passion and dedication of its volunteers, inspiring countless archers and propelling the club to new heights. Affiliated with esteemed archery organizations like the National Field Archery Association (NFAA), the Florida Archery Association (FAA), the Archery Shooters Association (ASA), and the International Bow Hunting Organization (IBO), the club remains at the forefront of the archery industry.
In recent years, the Joe Simone “Fun Shoot” has injected a spirited, fun-filled element into the club’s activities. Originally starting with paper targets, this exciting game evolved to include 3D animals, rats, and unique creatures in captivating settings. Paper and safari targets are also part of the mix, attracting participants in numbers that often surpass regular shoots.
The club owes much of its success to exceptional volunteer instructors who have graciously imparted their archery knowledge and safety expertise. Phil Westhoven initiated the club’s archery instruction program in the early 1980s, a legacy that continues today with instructions presented by distinguished instructors and trainers like John Lackey, an FAA Hall of Famer, and Ben Brown, a renowned archer and instructor. These esteemed instructors have shared their experience and wisdom both within the club’s boundaries and beyond by making off-site presentations and conducting in-house visitor training sessions on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Lee County Archers Club acknowledges the countless men and women who have made timeless contributions to its legacy. Each President’s Board and membership cohort deserves recognition for their tireless efforts. Thousands of hours, generously offered by devoted individuals, have propelled Lee County Archers to its position as the premier archery paradise it is today.
It is now the collective responsibility of all members to pay it forward, ensuring the next generation of archers inherits a thriving and vibrant community within the Lee County Archers cherished grounds.
We count on you to help us continue this legacy.
Lee County Archers
George Weymouth — 1979 to 1981
Pop Barker — 1982 to 1983
Mike Ball — 1984 to1985
Ron Posey — 1986 to 1987
Phil Westhoven — 1988 to 1989
Lee Coleman — 1990 to 1994
Ronnie Earl — 1994 to 1998
Dave Curz — 1998 to 2000
Ben Brown — 2000 to 2007
Ralph Galatz — 2008 to 2010
Ben Brown — 2011 to 2014
Bill Ziegler — 2015 to 2019
Chick Richards — 2019 to Present.