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Additional input sought on transportation study

By Staff | Sep 8, 2011

Only 10 days remain for those wishing to provide feedback on the project recommendations to the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program – formerly known as the Alternative Transportation in Parks and Public Lands (ATPPL) program – which has been under discussion on the island for more than three years.

The program, originally designed to assist national parks and public lands – including the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuges – in managing their visitation, while meeting the primary goal of providing sanctuary habitats for various wildlife.

“Before the revisions to the project recommendations are completed, we’d like to give anyone that has not yet submitted their comments a chance to do so,” program officials stated in an e-mail. “Comments received will be used to further refine the project recommendations.”

Since 2008, the program has invited public participation and has conducted five workshops where commentary has been gathered and questions have been answered. At the most recent meeting, held in April at the Sanibel Community House, more than 150 island residents and business owners debated the subject for more than two and a half hours.

By the end of that session, which was frequently interrupted by audience members who demanded that officials eliminate the circulator (“bus”) alternative transportation option, program spokesman Scott Pringle suggested that the study was approximately 25 percent “through the process.” He added that the next steps would include narrowing the list of transportation options and building a consensus of the preferred alternative.

“This process has been driven through public input,” said Pringle. “Up until now, we have had a lot of different visions for this project, so what we’re looking to do now is come up with a consensus plan in order to move forward in a direction that is right for Sanibel and the refuge.”

Among the 16 recommended Refuge-Focused Alternative Elements were resurfacing and restriping Wildlife Drive, surface treatment to Indigo Trail, Shell Mound Trail, Wulfert Keys Trail and Bailey Tract Trail, establishing a new trail between Tarpon Bay Explorers and Sanibel’s shared use path, several wayfinding improvements and pedestrian crossing safety enhancements.

However, all of the circulator routes proposed outside of the refuge – which included stops at four environmental institutions along Sanibel-Captiva Road as well as a number of island resorts – were shouted down at the April meeting.

On the program’s website, several recurring themes were drawn from the previous public meetings, including:

There should be no circulator elements outside of the refuge.

Existing refuge tram should be maintained, with some enhancements.

Wildlife Drive should be resurfaced for easier bicycling (refuge plans to resurface in 2013).

Existing refuge trails should receive surface enhancements for bicyclists/pedestrians (crushed shell).

Improve canoe launch at Tarpon Bay Explorers.

Provide a new trail connecting Tarpon Bay Explorers to Sanibel Shared-Use Paths.

Investigate parking options at former Island Water site.

More interpretive signs in refuge.

Provide signs guiding users from Sanibel Shared-Use Paths to Bailey Tract Trail.

Improve safety for wildlife crossings along Sanibel-Captiva Road.

Improve pedestrian crossings along Sanibel-Captiva Road for additional safety.

While a date has not been set for the next public meeting related to the program, officials are inviting islands to provide additional feedback, comments and fill out an online survey which will help them further refine the ongoing study.

To navigate directly to the survey, click on fs22.formsite.com/cella/form1/index.html. The survey will remain open through Sunday, Sept. 18.

“We are not interested in bringing more vehicles to the refuge. What we are interested in is keeping more vehicles off the refuge and Wildlife Drive,” Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik explained during the April session. “If (the study) doesn’t receive the support of this community, then there’s no reason to move forward with it.”

Additional information on the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program can be found at www.dingdarlingtransportation.com.