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Council approves Dunlop shared path extension

By Staff | Mar 2, 2011

The idea of extending Sanibel’s shared use path system through one of the busiest traffic areas of the island — from Periwinkle Way to the Dunlop Road/Wooster Lane intersection — was not only resurrected during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Following another round of debating the various pros and cons of the perviously proposed path alignments, councilors unanimously agreed to construct the least invasive — and expensive — option.

After the council approved the addition of two light poles to illuminate the crosswalk in front of the Sanibel Community Association, which Public Works Director Gates Castle explained was the most used crossing on the island for both bicyclists and pedestrians, and way-finding signage along the shared use path, the subject of the Dunlop Road extension was brought forward. Back in December, following several discussions of the proposed alignment options, councilors agreed to table talks on the matter indefinitely.

During his presentation on Tuesday, Castle briefly went over the proposed street and shared use path options. They included:

Option 1 — Constructing the shared use path five feet south of the existing eastbound travel lane. While probably the least expensive option, it is also the one with the greatest environmental impact involving gopher tortoise habitat, native vegetation and wetlands.

Option 2 — Identical to Option 1, except the eastbound travel lane at the Wooster Lane curve would become the shared use path. As a result, there would be no wetlands impact, but gopher tortoise and native vegetation would remain impacted.

Option 3 — Utilizing the existing eastbound lane from Mahogany Way to the main City Hall entrance for the shared use path, a new eastbound lane would be constructed south of, and adjacent to, the existing westbound lane. A portion of the existing westbound lane could be used for the interconnecting path previously mentioned and the ingress/egress for the BIG Arts/Village & Museum parking lot would be modified. This option would be more expensive than Options 1 or 2, but would have no gopher tortoise or wetlands impact. Native roadway trees would need to be relocated with this option.

Option 4 — Utilizing the existing eastbound lane from Mahogany Way to the main City Hall entrance for the shared use path, but rather than utilizing the existing westbound lane for vehicular travel, a new two-lane road would be constructed in the median. A portion of the existing westbound lane could be used for the interconnecting path previously mentioned and the BIG Arts/Village & Museum parking lot would be reconfigured with a new ingress/egress location and possible enlargement utilizing space gained through the elimination of the existing westbound lane. This option would be the most expensive and require the relocation of more native street trees than the other options.

A fifth option, originally introduced during a meeting in November, was not included in Castle’s presentation.

“I do believe that there is a need to put some sort of shared use path there,” said Vice Mayor Mick Denham, who rejected any of the plans that had been discussed late last year that would “ruin the ambiance of Dunlop Road.” Embracing the idea that making some compromises was necessary to move forward with any plan, Denham said that he now supported Option 1.

“It may be the safest option,” he said, adding that it would be the least invasive plan, wetland issues could be overcome and wouldn’t negatively impact the safety of gopher tortoises in the area.

Asked what the cost differential would be between the four options, Castle stated the least expensive plan, Option 1, would cost approximately $25,000. Option 2 would cost about $35,000, Option 3 about $48,500 and Option 4 about $58,500.

Jim Jennings lent his support to Option 4, stating that it allowed some more “flexibility” to impacted properties such as BIG Arts, and would be more beneficial to the environment.

Pressed by Denham why he couldn’t support Option 1, Jennings responded, “It would be nice if your great speech could’ve swayed me, but it didn’t.”

Peter Pappas, sitting in on his final session as councilman, stated that he would prefer Option 4, but “could accept” Option 1.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said fellow councilor Marty Harrity. “It seems to me that the consensus of the citizens of Sanibel is Option 4.”

Mayor Kevin Ruane disagreed, stating that Option 4 was “far too complex and far too overreaching.” He suggested that Option 1 would address all of the objectives of the shared use path master plan before opening the floor to public comment.

Resident Herb Rubin told the council that the most important thing was for them to select one of the options, as long as that one plan is approved. Fellow islander Claudia Burns, who added that the curves along Dunlop Road were designed intentionally in order to restrict traffic flow, suggested that they consider bicycle lanes to the existing roadway.

“The City of Sanibel last year was designated a bike-friendly community,” said Billy Kirkland, residents and owner of Billy’s Rentals. “So I think that we should do whatever we can to make things safer for bicyclists.”

After some additional debate, Pappas made a motion to approve Option 1, which was seconded by Denham. The motion was passed unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, Tom Sharbaugh of the Sanibel Bicycle Club proposed adding a new amenity to the shared use path along Periwinkle Way, on the property which formerly occupied the historic Rutland homestead. He detailed a plan for a “welcome center” kiosk, which would include a large covered gazebo-type structure, maps, information about safety, conservation and details of the historic site as well as seating, trash containers and a drinking fountain.

The project, which would also include native plant landscaping, would cost an estimated $25,000 to $40,000, depending upon the final design details. The project was also capable of being constructed in stages, Sharbaugh added.

“We’ve got close to $30,000 in funding secured,” he said, adding that money for the project would come from the city’s Trails In Motion Fund, The Periwinkle Partnership and private citizens. The Hammerheads would assist in construction of the kiosk and maintenance would be provided by members of the Sanibel Bicycle Club and volunteers.

Ruane made a motion for plans to move forward with the project, which was seconded by Denham and unanimously approved.

Denham also took time to say farewell to Pappas.

“I’d like to say congratulations for all he’s done,” said Denham. “You’ve been an inspiration to all of us.”

“You always knew where he is and always knew where he stands,” added Harrity, looking across the desk at his longtime colleague. “There’s no beating around the bush with him!”