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Council to weigh Periwinkle Planting extension in March

By Staff | Dec 31, 2008

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

— Greek Proverb

The City Council will revisit a request from the Sanibel Beautification Committee to extend the Periwinkle Project from the Causeway intersection east to Kings Crown Drive at its first meeting in March.

Ada Shissler, president of Sanibel Beautification, Inc. began a presentation to the Council at its last meeting on Dec. 16 with a progress report on the Periwinkle Planting Project — a cooperative effort between Sanibel Beautification, The Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the City of Sanibel, to restore the vegetation along Periwinkle Way which was devastated after Hurricane Charley in 2004.

With the project now nearing completion, and the matching funds grant from the Lee County Landscaping Committee extended until the end of 2009, Shissler appeared before the Council to request permission to proceed with plans to extend the project east from the Causeway intersection to Kings Crown Drive.

The proposal called for the reconfiguration of the southeast corner of the Causeway/Periwinkle intersection; replacing the drinking fountain with a fountain that matches those that have already been installed, adding a bench for seating and creating a small rest area.

In addition, Shissler proposed the planting of trees to create canopy above the shared use path in the area, which would be similar to those planted along Periwinkle Way, with trees and understory planting, as well as a rest area or two.

Shissler told the Council that a balance of $102,540 remained available to the Partnership in matching funds, and that they were confident that they could complete the planned project with the funds that were still available in the Periwinkle Partnership account.

Council members, who were all quick to congratulate Shissler and her team for a job well-done, were equally as quick to express concern over maintenance costs, which Public Works Director Gates Castle estimated at $12,000 annually.

Councilman Marty Harrity said that the Partnership’s work was absolutely amazing, but that the timing of the request couldn’t have been worse.

At a time when we’re all cutting back, I don’t know how we would justify [approval],” said Harrity. “It’s not that we don’t want to do it, it’s just that timing is an issue.

Shissler continued to insist that maintenance costs would be minimal, but City Manager Judie Zimomra responded that ‘minimal’ was a relative term.

As plantings and trees grow to maturity, it gets more and more expensive to maintain,” explained Zimomra. “Now, we can trim trees from ground-level, but as they mature, we need bucket trucks and traffic control.

Harrity suggested that the Council postpone a decision on the request for a quarter, so that the Council could get a better handle on City finances before making any kind of final determination, which was met with resistance from Shissler.

This may be feasible from the Council’s perspective, but my group will dissolve,” said Shissler in response. “We’ll probably just have the dedication ceremony in February, and that will be the end of it.

Shissler said her reservations about the delay centered around the time necessary for planning the project, as well as scheduling planting for the rainy season.

Mayor Mick Denham said that if the Council was pressed to make an immediate decision, the answer would probably be a denial, based on the expense of maintenance.

What we’re saying here is that we’re willing to delay for a little while and take a look at it,” said Denham.

Pen Shell Drive resident Douglas Dietrich urged the Council consider carefully the cost of proper maintenance when making their decision.

Already, the City has had a difficult time maintaining the vegetation from shared use paths for walkers and bikers,” said Dietrich, referring to plants which are now encroaching on the narrow shared path width, as well as height. “It’s crazy to accept $100,000, that will end up costing us $24,000 over two years, when we’re looking at a budget disaster.”

Council agreed unanimously to postpone a decision on the request until its first meeting in March.

In addition to replanting trees along Periwinkle Way that were lost almost four and a half years ago, the Partnership has also placed rest benches and fountains along the shared-use paths, and has recently completed the understory planting of the new trees. A permanent memorial to the Periwinkle Planting Project and the Periwinkle Partnership will be placed in a garden adjacent to the Sanibel Community Association. A dedication ceremony has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 21.