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Please don’t pave paradise in 2013

By Staff | May 4, 2012

Dear Editor,

Ding Darling has been dead for 50 years so I ask what he would think about the plan in 2013 to lay asphalt down and pave what Charles LeBuff calls “The Dyke” but was named “Wildlife Drive” after 9-11.

On Earth Day I hopped on the Tarpon Bay Explorers tram with narration which tours Ding Darling and learned much. Jay Norwood Darling instigated the creation of our refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally obtained 2,900 acres. A refuge is for wildlife, restores land to native natural habitat conditions and stops inviting in what is not wanted. Migratory birds rest, nest, mate and breed in refuges. Sanibel happens to be a magnificent vortex for two flyways. After 27 years, I captured for the first time, from the paused tram, a photo of a reddish egret in mating plumage.

Ding Darling now consists of 6,400 acres and thanks to conservation efforts, 70 percent of Sanibel is preserved. In order to continue to gain and not lose what we have saved the new forwards is often backwards. The current needs of wildlife require us to release ourselves from attachment to engineering environment. Rivers of the Everglades once straightened into canals are being returned to meandering waterways with oxbows. In this new millennium we have discovered we made mistakes and now we must go with the flow, permit nature to be natural, stop interfering with what is and like the Beatles said “Let It Be.”

If anything needs to be transformed it is humans! We can make better sweeter connections with the environment which are genuinely positive, constructive and stops irreversible damage. Humans often mean well with notions and motions but sadly, too often we further peculiar agenda which destroys for all time what all time cannot replace. It is time to release ourselves from “Little Understandings” which are cramped and busy, short-term and foolishly perpetuate our on-going addiction to fossil fuels.

The fundamental issue is we must, as a nation, reduce the strategic importance of oil in our lives. our oil dependence makes and keeps us vulnerable and puts our national security constantly at risk. We can begin doing what other nations have done: intervene with our addiction and break it and the monopoly oil has over our light duty transportation needs. We can turn to and use sustainable solutions which will showcase our wildlife refuge without smooth asphalt paving and gasoline.

Wildlife needs what is proper: our “Great Understanding” which is broad and unhurried, goes with the flow, paddles, bikes and trams through the refuge with the powers and energies of the future. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” does not involve strength but with our fantastic ability to change and adapt. Prohibiting gasoline powered vehicles from Ding Darling refuge and not paving The Dyke is not like trying to push a piano through a porthole! It is entirely possible for us to do this. Trams, biking, hiking and paddling make amazing sense for now and for the years from now.

Most visitors come here for sand, sunburn and shopping. They merely tour Ding Darling and do not require the refuge like our wildlife does for survival to avoid extinction. I pay attention to a small voice in me which says “Trams only … they work … and no gasoline.” Too often we declare something is impossible, tell ourselves it won’t work when it does and will. What a marvelous opportunity we have!

Sustainability depends on persistence, our vigilance and our refusal to accept anthing less than what is truly best for the wildlife in the Ding Darling Refuge. Solutions like our existing trams have succeeded and will continue to work well if expanded. For years Mt. Desert Island and Acadia’s “Island Explorer” system along with their no motorized vehicle carriage trails have worked. This is the direction all precious places eventually must and will take. A wildlife refuge is for the wildlife which depends on these places for survival. Human uses are secondary.

There is no need to pave paradise with non-permeable asphalt and make it smooth. “Please Don’t Pave Paradise in 2013” isn’t rocket science. There is no need to become adversarial, confrontational or controversial. We simply need to expand the existing narrated tram tour system, encourage biking, hiking, and paddling and end the use of gasoline in our refuge the way it has been done in Denali, Shark Valley, Lovers Key and much of Acadia. Please send emails and letters to support Please Don’t Pave Paradise in 2013 to the Ding Darling Society and USF&W Service, Thank you!

Beth Warner

aka “The Window Wench”

and “One Less Car” Bicyclist