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Name change for Tarpon Bay Road?

By Staff | Jul 26, 2017

Although the City Council all agreed that a request from the Gavin family to change the name of a major road on the island meets a historical point of view, they were unsure of what policies need to be in place.

“First of all I would like to thank you all for even giving consideration of the possibility. Thank you for taking a look at our family history and giving consideration of the worthiness of changing the name of Tarpon Bay Road to honor our families,” Eric Gavin said. “That in itself has great meaning to us.”

Kevin Mayor Ruane told the council that he met with Eugene Gavin Monday, July 17, prior to the Tuesday City Council meeting, to rename Tarpon Bay Road to Gavin Walker Road.

“I am certainly open to do that. The implications obviously come from the historical point of view and they come from the planning point of view. My own two sense is that I thought we would need some kind of insight, or input. Whatever we do will have an impact, not only on that particular road, but any other policies, or changes that we would like to do in the future,” Ruane said. “I am very open to doing this request.”

Eugene Gavin, who was born on Captiva in 1942, and lived on Sanibel, spoke before the council last week, as well.

“The Gavin’s lived on San-Cap Road for 53 years,” Eugene said. “I would travel back and forth from San-Cap Road to Tarpon Bay Road and go to my grandmother’s house, Pearl Alice Walker, which lived across from the park that was made by Sanibel. We went to the beach. In the early days there were only blacks there.”

He said they wish dearly, almost 200 Gavins and Walkers, have been notified that they are in effort to change Tarpon Bay Road to Gavin Walker Road.

“I believe, as living on Sanibel, our family, almost 100 years, has been enough contribution for the council and other people to work 24 hours to get this done,” Eugene said.

Eric said Sanibel is his family’s home, where they began, their heritage. He said there has always been a Gavin residing on the island for those 100 years.

“Throughout history there are things that have taken place that none of us here are responsible for, but there has been things that have happened in history where the minority community has gotten recognition for the things they have accomplished,” Eric said. “Sanibel, in my experience, has always been a place where we feel comfortable as a minority in a community. That is a huge compliment to the residents of the island.”

He said for all of the contributions they have made through volunteer and business services, as well as a number of things the family has done to the island, they not only want the island to be their home, but they also want something that represents their family that others can see.

In the 10 years that Ruane has sat at the dais, he said he does not know what the city’s process is, or if any resident, or person, who feels passionate about something can ask to change the name of a road.

“There is merit in any request that comes in here. There is no policy, or anything we have associated with this. I’m not looking at delaying the request from the Gavin’s, I’m just looking to certainly have the historical aspect. I know they more than qualify.”

The first prerequisite would be to get the historical subcommittee to see if the request is historical in nature, Ruane said. The second would be finding out what the policy is for changing the names of roads.

“I think it’s a great opportunity and I certainly want to assist the request,” he said. “As I told Mr. Gavin last night, I wish he would have come a little bit earlier. They have an event in August, so I’m not necessarily certain of what needs to take place between now and then. I assured him I would do everything in my power. But, I also assured him that government does not move as quickly as I ever would like it to.”

Councilman Chauncey Goss said his biggest concern is precedence, but if they can deal with that through policy then that helps a lot.

Ruane said the decision they would have to make would be a decision to create legislation to change roads. He said although this is extremely important to their family, the legislation they need to create is something the City of Sanibel would have to live with.

Councilman Jason Maughan said there is also an opportunity for the shared use paths to be named also.

“There’s an opportunity also for areas of the shared use paths, which follow traditional walking trails that people prior to having cars on the island would have walked from one side of the island, or another. Those are areas that could be named also for specific issues, or for historical purposes . . . walk the same route that pioneers from 100 years, or more walked and have interpretive panels. That will size in with getting out, exercise and biking and bring some more history to the island,” Maughan said.

Ruane said he would like to bring the topic back to their Aug. 1 meeting.

City Manager Judie Zimomra said the only time a street name has been changed since the city incorporated was to clean up maps.

Resident Karen Storjohann spoke on the historic perspective of Tarpon Bay Road, which was laid out and named by Captain Cooper, an early resident of Sanibel.

“So you actually have a conflicting historical claim on the name of this road, which has been discussed before in front of this body. I’m very much in favor of the family’s that were underrepresented being acknowledged, but I’m not sure that you replace one family with another family. I suggested last time this was brought up that Library Way, which no longer houses a library, is adjacent to Tarpon Bay Road, might be a more suitable location for a name change and clear up confusion.”