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Sanctus, Sanctuarium

By Staff | Apr 30, 2015

To the editor:

The sign reads “Welcome to our Sanctuary Island,” and “Sanctuary” is written on the wall of our city council chamber. The word appears three times in the Sanibel Plan goal statement.

“The dominant principle is Sanibel’s SANCTUARY quality. Sanibel shall be developed as a community only to the extent to which it retains and embraces this quality of SANCTUARY. Sanibel will serve as an attraction only to the extent to which it retains its desired qualities as SANCTUARY and Community.”

The word sanctuary means a consecrated place, as the most sacred part of a religious building. It also means a place of refuge for wildlife. Sanibel has become a sanctuary for the chamber of commerce, for the Lee County promoters, the commercial interests and their handmaiden, the city council. Are organizations such as COTI and SCCF protecting our “sanctuary,” or have they joined the promoters and exploiters?

Sanibel’s Gulf front beaches, our most precious sanctuary, are a place where Snowy Plovers, Least Terns and Black Skimmers should nest in peace and where migratory birds rest and eat. There are fewer than 500 Snowy Plovers in Florida. The Horizon oil spill that killed thousands of birds and ruined nesting areas makes Sanibel’s beaches even more important. Sadly, Mayor Ruane prevented consideration of our beaches carrying capacity a few years ago.

On our beaches, children chase entire flocks, joggers frighten resting birds, and flocks of sanderlings shy away from dogs, even on a leash. Last year a child chased and killed a Snowy Plover chick. Every morning a police buggy scares birds, and a few hours later the turtle crew comes by in a jeep, smashing vegetation, crushing crustaceans and leaving ugly tracks. In our neighborhood (Tradewinds), people drive golf carts to the beach, destroying vegetation that controls erosion. SCCF cordons off a few feet around bird and turtle nests, but when the chicks leave the nest, they are unprotected. Fishermen cast directly into flocks of birds, entangling them in coils of line. Collectors pick up the best shells, with most likely ending up gathering dust or tossed away.

It is time for Draconian measures to limit human activity on our beaches. We residents must sacrifice our “beach freedom” as an example to others.

1. The city should immediately require advance payment and reservations for beach parking.

2. Establish a “no human” zone from Bowman’s Beach west to Blind Pass.

3. Absolutely no mechanical vehicles on the beach. The police can monitor the area from a boat just offshore or with binoculars. Allow golf carts only with disabled stickers. The turtle watchers can walk.

4. No dogs, not even on a leash.

5. No running or jogging; people must walk quietly and tiptoe around birds.

6. No fishing from the beach.

7. Cordon off “no human” zones of at least 100 yards around bird nesting areas.

8. Admire, but don’t collect shells. Leave them for others to see and enjoy.

This is bitter medicine, but necessary if Sanibel can be a sanctuary. Citizens join this holy cause to protect our beaches. Shame the rascals in city hall into doing the right thing.

John Raffensperger

Sanibel Island