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SCCF launches fundraising campaign honoring island’s past, protecting future

By Staff | Nov 3, 2010

Seven former mayors of Sanibel — including Mark Westall, Carla Brooks Johnston, Mick Denham, Francis Bailey, Jerry Muench, Nola Theiss and Wally Kain — surround City Manager Judie Zimomra at the historic Bailey homestead.

On Thursday morning, among the unspoiled wilderness shaded beneath a canopy of trees, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) formally announced the launch of a $5.3 million fundraising campaign to acquire one of the island’s last largely undeveloped parcels of land.

Surrounded by more than 50 local residents, including seven former mayors of Sanibel, SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad introduced the “Honoring The Past – Protecting The Future” campaign to support the acquisition of the 28.3-acre Bailey Homestead.

The project includes restoration of the Bailey family home for an on-site Interpretive Center, creating a Butterfly House and Native Plant Nursery, wildlife habitat restoration and additional conservation work at the site.

“On June 24th of this year, SCCF took the first step in honoring the past by executing a one-year option to purchase the 28.3 acres we’re gathered on, the historic Bailey Family Homestead, from Francis Bailey,” Lindblad told the crowd. “Francis has been very gracious in allowing us to do some initial restoration work on his property. This spot where we’ve gathered was impenetrable before our habitat management staff got in here. Now, with the removal of air potato and other exotics, you can see it is a wonderful wildlife habitat that can also be enjoyed by birders and other visitors.”

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.

Francis Bailey talks about growing up on the 28.3-acre property now known as the Bailey Family Homestead, which borders Periwinkle Way adjacent to Donax Street.

The property, owned by Bailey, would be acquired at a cost of $4 million should the capital funding campaign be successful. The option agreement to purchase the parcel will expire on June 30, 2011.

“Despite a still challenging economy and many competing philanthropic needs, I just keep saying, ‘We can’t not do this. We can’t not do this,'” Lindblad added. “Because of the magnitude of this campaign, we feel strongly we must reach out for support in one consolidated request, so the last component of the campaign for funding for the annual expenses in all of SCCF’s program areas not otherwise covered by grants and revenues generated by staff.”

Cheryl Giattini, who is serving as Campaign Coordinator for SCCF, identified four main components of the “Honoring The Past – Protecting The Future” initiative:

• The $4 million purchase price of the property;

• The creation of a habitat restoration and management fund (equal to 10 percent of the purchase price, or $400,000);

Following the unveiling of the fundraising billboard, Cheryl Giattini, left, addresses the crowd while Bill Fenniman and Erick Lindblad look on.

• Restoration of the Bailey house and creation of an Interpretive Center ($225,000);

• Support for all of SCCF’s program areas, including environmental education, sea turtle monitoring, wildlife habitat management, marine research, natural resource policy and the native plant nursery ($675,000).

“We have until June 2011 to succeed, and we’re cautiously optimistic in telling you we’re off to a good start,” Giattini said. “As of today, we have received gifts and pledges totaling a quarter of a million dollars.”

Giattini also noted that in a few weeks, SCCF (with support from Bank of the Islands) will mail a brochure explaining the “Honoring The Past – Protecting The Future” campaign to every island mailbox.

“With a time-sensitive fundraising deadline of June 24, 2011 to purchase the Bailey property, it is unlikely we will do that without major gifts to this campaign,” the brochure reads, in part. “Please help us invest in Sanibel and Captiva’s future.”

Francis Bailey, left, and Kristie Anders talked about growing up on the island.

Following the announcement, the crowd was invited to walk over the the Bailey family home and explore some of the expansive property. Towards the middle of a large clearing behind the home, an enlarged photograph showing a young Francis Bailey — about the age of 5 — standing in front of what had been identified as a windmill. That structure, obscured over the years by overgrown shrubs and trees, was discovered in good condition when habitat staffers did some clearing work at the site.

Upon inspecting the photograph, Francis confirmed that the image was of him and not of his recently departed brother, Sam. However, he did dispute the identity of the structure pictured behind him.

“That’s not the windmill. The windmill is made out of metal,” Bailey told Kristie Anders, SCCF’s Education Director. “That was our old water tower. You see? It was made out of wood.”

Sure enough, the structure pictured in the vintage photograph was indeed made out of wood.

“This is an incredible gateway to a calm, green area of Sanibel,” said Anders, looking over the property. “Just to be able to hold onto this would be great, and we would be actually lowering the density on the island.”

Rae Ann Wessel looks at a photograph of Francis Bailey when he was about 5 years old.

“It’s a promise to our future,” she added.

To help support SCCF’s “Honoring The Past – Protecting The Future” fundraising campaign, donations are being accepted online at www.sccf.org. For additional information, contact Cheryl Giattini at 395-2768 or cgiattini@attglobal.net. You may also contact Erick Lindblad at 472-2329 or elindblad@sccf.org.