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EDITORIAL: Opportunity has its price

By Staff | Nov 3, 2010

Last week, leaders from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) officially announced the launch of a fundraising campaign to acquire the Bailey Family Homestead, a 28.3-acre tract near the eastern corridor of the island.

The expansive project, called “Honoring The Past – Protecting The Future,” will include restoring the Bailey family home for an on-site Interpretive Center, establishing a butterfly house and native plant nursery as well as wildlife habitat restoration and additional conservation work on the site.

Price tag for this initiative: $5.3 million. That includes $4 million for the property itself, $400,000 (or 10 percent) for the creation of a habitat restoration and management fund, $225,000 for the restoration of the Bailey house and construction of an Interpretive Center and $675,000 in support of all program areas established by SCCF, including environmental education, sea turtle monitoring, native plant nursery, wildlife habitat management, marine research and natural resource policy.

However, the cost for the project may not be the most daunting aspect of this fundraising challenge. The one-year land option agreement, between SCCF and property owner Francis Bailey, expires on June 30, 2011.

In other words, there remains only an eight month window of opportunity.

According to a brochure distributed at the official announcement event, once the project has been completed, this transaction will be “of tremendous benefit” to Sanibel’s wildlife habitat, historic preservation, marine stewardship and conservation education.

We agree.

“We have until June 2011 to succeed, and we’re cautiously optimistic in telling you we’re off to a good start,” Cheryl Giattini, SCCF Campaign Coordinator, said at a press conference held last week at the site. “As of today, we have received gifts and pledges totaling a quarter of a million dollars.”

That leaves a long way to go in a very short time. But we are confident in stating that if there is any community in these United States that can rally together in support for conserving wildlife and protecting local history, it is the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. People who live here have established themselves as champions for causes like this, and tourists who return to the islands — year after year — come back for many reasons, most prominent of which is our commitment to preserving these lands and wildlife habitat for future generations to enjoy.

Should the campaign fail, the island’s opportunity to keep the largely undeveloped parcel — which is zoned for up to 28 single-family residences — would be lost… forever. And a little bit of our island’s history will fade into oblivion.

The chance to preserve a site like the Bailey Family Homestead does not come along every day, so we would urge our readers, the entire island community and visitors of this paradise to lend their support to SCCF’s campaign. Donations are currently being accepted online at www.sccf.org.

The clock is ticking.

— Reporter editorial