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Council considers adopting Shared Use Path Master Plan

By Staff | Apr 8, 2009

During Tuesday’s lengthy City Council session, action Director of Planning Jimmy Jordan delivered a comprehensive report on Sanibel’s Shared Use Path Master Plan, recommending several improvements and alterations to the 23-mile system that was initially established 35 years ago.

Jordan’s report looked at ways that the city’s shared use path could be improved in regards to safety, maintenance and stewardship with the island’s infrastructure. Among the recommendations the Planning Department proposed:

Improved Public Safety, including additional signage and way-to directions, staging informational seminars and more stringent law enforcement along the paths.

Improved Maintenance, including improved crosswalks and resurfacing of damaged areas.

Addition Extensions, including widening 15 areas along the path to a minimum of eight feet, adding vegetation enhancements and rest areas.

Additional Stewardship, including the development of an ambassador program, volunteer litter control and searching for innovative alternate funding.

According to Jordan, all of the proposed improvements would be implemented over a one to two year period.

As the city prepares to begin the budget process, which will officially start in July, such improvements will likely increase the operating expenses dedicated to the shared use paths. Between 2004 and 2008, Sanibel has spent $2,982,600 on costs related to the path system, an average of almost $600,000 per year.

Dick Caulkins, a representative of the Committee of the Islands, told the council that COTI supported the proposed Shared Use Path Master Plan.

“We feel like we’ve had a number of opportunities to provide input on this,” he said. “It’s a good final draft.”

Ric Base, director of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, noted that the plan has “100 percent support” of the chamber’s Board of Directors while Bill Sartoris, president of the Sanibel Bike Club, added that the plan was “a long time coming.”

Sanibel resident Hazel Schuller, although in favor of the city adopting the plan, suggested that it go before the Planning Commission prior to adoption. The plan had previously gone before the city’s Parks & Recreation Committee, which they had approved with their full support.

After a brief discussion, council members decided not to return the plan for Planning Commission scrutiny, approving the plan to be placed on the consent agenda at their April 21 meeting.

“I think it’s a great plan and I’m in support of it,” said Mayor Mick Denham. “I’m sure that as we move forward with our budget plan that we include line items to support this.”

Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Rentals, also lent his support for the plan. He even presented City Manager Judie Zimomra with a check to be put towards providing additional bicycle racks along the shared use path.

“I believe that if you run a business in a community that you should support it,” he added.

In other business, the council approved the appropriation of $1,000 from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a bicycle to be used by the Sanibel Police Department. According to Zimomra, the bike patrol would patrol the city’s shared use paths exclusively.

Resident Claudia Burns questioned the amount of money being dedicated for such a public safety device.

“To me, $1,000 is an awfully high-tech bicycle,” she told the council, noting that two-wheeled vehicles with hand brakes and narrow tires tend to wear out quicker in an island setting.

Zimomra responded that the bicycle being purchased for Sanibel was similar to a former bike patrol device which served the city “more than five years.”

Also approved on Tuesday was a $40,000 grant – received from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program – to be administered by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation for the treatment of invasive exotic species on conservation land. Council members adopted a resolution to simultaneously redirect a $100,000 transfer from the Franchise and Occupational License Fund to the General Fund, decreasing the Fiscal Year 2009 budget by $60,000.