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A blunder

By Staff | Mar 10, 2015

To the editor:

Last week I blundered into a panel discussion on the problems and challenges facing Sanibel. After the meeting started, I realized it was a woman’s club program. It was too late to leave and besides an attractive blond lady of about my age (mid 80s) took the next chair.

I had assumed that the challenges facing Sanibel were a declining eco-system, the islands carrying capacity overrun with humans, the traffic jam backed up to McGregor and the standstill on Periwinkle. My assumption was dead wrong; the panelists (San Cap Trust, the chamber of commerce, the city manager and BIG ARTS) all agreed the problem was not enough visitors to support the business and cultural sector. They claimed the island desperately needs re-development and improved cultural facilities to attract the flood of visitors when babies born today live for 140 years.

This was a total surprise, but it all became clear when the chamber explained it like this: Sanibel’s population of about 7,000 people (winter time) requires stores so residents don’t have to cross the bridge to get a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough full-time residents to support two supermarkets, three filling stations, four jewelry stores, three fishing tackle shops and too many ice cream parlors, gift and T-shirt shops, liquor stores, clothing stores, and restaurants to count.

Therefore, Sanibel needs a huge influx of visitors to support business. In other words, Sanibel needs more tourists to support more business and then more business to support the chamber of commerce to entice more visitors.

Doesn’t this sound like a pyramid scheme? Will it lead eventually to the 90,000 or more population the developers wanted back in the 1970s? The panelists agreed that a little tinkering with the streets would solve the traffic problems. I guess they haven’t read the Sanibel Plan that says the solution to traffic is fewer automobiles.

Most people buy a home and live on Sanibel to watch ospreys making lazy circles in the sky or a flock of ibis pecking on the lawn or the excitement of seeing an alligator. It is also deeply satisfying to stop on the San-Cap Road while a gopher tortoise ambles to greener pastures. Some of us even hoped to catch fish or at least enjoy local seafood. If we wanted to visit art galleries, see plays, buy jewelry and fight traffic jams, we could have stayed in Chicago or New York.

When the ospreys can’t find a place to roost, all the alligators are killed to protect tourists, the Gulf is too poisoned to support fish, the ibis are dead with pesticide poisoning and after a beer truck smashes the last tortoise, we can all go down to the city center, eat farm-raised shrimp from Indonesia, play checkers and see a foreign movie.

Gosh, won’t that be fun?

John Raffensperger

Sanibel