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Council asks public to attend Transit In Parks meeting

By Staff | Apr 6, 2011

What may be the last opportunity to provide input on the Alternative Transportation in Parks and Public Lands Program (ATPPL) study, now called the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit In Parks Program, will take place on Wednesday, April 13 at the Sanibel Community House, located at 2173 Periwinkle Way.

The meeting, which will present the latest version of the Locally Preferred Alternative draft to members of the public, will begin at 4:30 p.m.

“The goals of the project are to reduce traffic in the refuge, lower emissions and lessen impacts to wildlife and the environment,” a press release from the project committee stated. “An additional goal of this project is to improve visitor mobility and accessibility and enhance visitor experience. Based on public input received at the public meeting in January of this year, the project recommendation has been revised and is now considered a Refuge-Focused Locally Preferred Alternative.

On Jan. 26, project manager David Baxter and other members of the steering committee introduced a gallery of preliminary maps detailing proposed circulator (bus) routes, both within the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, several additional Sanibel and Captiva destinations and potential off-island sites.

“I’d like to stress the word ‘draft’ here, because nothing has been agreed to yet,” Baxter explained. “And the public will have input on this project until the ink is dry on the final contract.

According to the latest release, the project recommendation primarily focuses on supporting the refuge with trail enhancements, way-finding and a “green” circulator (tram) to provide access to the refuge and other environmental destinations along Sanibel-Captiva Road.

“This ‘green’ circulator would be designed to bring visitors to the refuge from island resorts and would not be a Sanibel Island public transit system with any connections to the mainland,” the statement continued. “It will be designed to protect the environment and improve existing refuge access and parking.

City Manger Judie Zimomra, following a phone call with Baxter last week, issued a memorandum stating that the City of Sanibel does not approve or endorse the Draft Locally Preferred Alternative because it is not consistent with the city’s transportation policy nor the Sanibel Plan.

“It is not accurate to represent at the upcoming workshop that the city has approved or endorses a Draft Alternative that basically requests the community — and the steering committee — to accept a ‘pig in the poke,’ which skirts the major policy questions, to not be evaluated until subsequent phases of project design,” Zimomra wrote.

The three questions concern the definition of “green” technology, sources of funding and areas to be serviced by the “circulator extension” system.

In addition, the city has also requested that any potential partners listed in the presented draft proposal (i.e. Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, SCCF and/or CROW) sign off prior to being identified in a public presentation.

“We are at these meetings to hear from the public, not to tell the public what the city would endorse,” Zimomra told the council on Tuesday morning, passing out a two-page statement — adopted on Dec. 6, 2005 — detailing the city’s position prior to participating in the transportation study.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham, who suggested that he would prefer the most costly but less pollutant electric vehicles to service the refuge, added, “I think we have been very firm in our position.

The city had previously stated that, as partners of the ATPPL study, they would support a transit authority that “allows each municipality the right to veto any route, facility, stop or type of vehicle that is proposed within that municipality that the City Council does not deem appropriate.

Additionally, the city agreed to participate in a system that “uses City of Sanibel approved circulation routes and transit stops within the city’s boundaries,” including possible modal transfer sites for water transit opportunities for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles; and including transfer sites for transit corridor connections at Punta Rassa and Captiva Island with on-island circulation routes.

“I certainly encourage the public to come out to the meeting,” said Mayor Kevin Ruane. “We’re not here to sell this… we only want what is best for Sanibel.”

For additional information or to submit comments or ideas, visit the project website at www.dingdarlingtransportation.com.