Sanibel, the new Disneyland
The city council and planning commission are supposed to be stewards of Sanibel’s environment, but they have made renting bicycles, selling sunscreen, beer, T-shirts and overpriced restaurant meals more important than the health of our island.
The city council will not consider “carrying capacity” until there is a measurable decline in wildlife on the beaches. When dies the measurement start?
Should we measure from Charles LeBuff’s observation in “Sanibel Light” that describes huge numbers of shells on the beaches during the 1950s? Even 10 years ago, one could find a wide variety of shells, including live shells. There are now no live shells, only old and broken shells.
The only collectible shells are found in the shops and a museum. A collectible shell is so rare it’s photograph will appear in the local paper.
Is this loss of shells not a “measurable” change? How do we measure the declining numbers of fish caught on our beaches or the scarcity of dolphins?
The next measurable change on the beach may well be the disappearance of the rare, endangered Snowy Plovers. The council will then be responsible for the extinction of an entire species.
The business community and even “non-profit” organizations want increasing numbers of tourists. The fairs bring huge crowds and traffic jams. Ding Darling sponsors fishing tournaments. CROW is as much in the business of attracting tourists to the new museum as saving wildlife.
The shell museum is a major attraction and Big Arts stages ever bigger and better events to pull in visitors. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is building a new parking lot, a boardwalk and a pavilion to attract visitors. The history society has plans to attract more tourists. Is Sanibel to become an amusement park?
Tax paying Sanibel citizens who expected to enjoy tranquility, beauty and wildlife are subject to traffic jams, crowds on the beaches and overpriced restaurant meals.
We need not be a gated community, but should every organization go out of its way to attract visitors? As long as the council and planning commission are composed of people who benefit from business, the crowds will increase and the health of our island will decline.
John Raffensperger, MD