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Committee to find ways of recognizing Gavin-Walker family

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

Kevin Mayor Ruane presented Eugene Gavin with a proclamation recognizing the Gavin family for their centennial anniversary celebration this month. MEGHAN MCCOY

With input from the community, and further discussion on the dais, the City Council voted to bring the topic of recognizing the Gavin and Walker family before the Historic Preservation Committee last week.

“I don’t think we should make any decisions today. What I suggest is that we send this down to the Historical Committee and let them come up with a way. They exist for a reason. Let’s have them come up with a way, if they want to, the best way to go,” Councilman Chauncey Goss said, adding that the committee had a meeting Thursday morning.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said the direction they gave the city manager at last month’s meeting was to try and get indication as they go through the research that is always required when considering new policies. He said the council received quite a few emails regarding the request of changing Tarpon Bay Road to Walker Gavin Road.

He said that he was really appreciative of the audience members who shared some history of the streets on Sanibel.

“Based on the emails that I have seen I’m probably not in favor of creating new policy, or actually initiating a street name change at all,” Ruane said Tuesday morning. “That is just my two cents.”

Vice Mayor Mick Denham also added his thoughts after receiving numerous emails and input from residents.

“I’m not in support of changing the name of Tarpon Bay, but I do believe it is important to recognize distinguished residents,” he said, adding that he was currently unclear of how they could recognize those residents. “I’m not in favor of changing street names, but I am in favor of finding another way to recognize distinguished citizens.”

The public also had an opportunity to weigh in on the subject, which included comments from Sanibel resident Steve Maxwell. He suggested creating a corridor marker, which could be used along the trail alongside Tarpon Bay to the beach, to share the family’s story.

Eugene Gavin said in 2008 he met with the city manager and she spoke about putting the Gavin Walker Road on top of Tarpon Bay Road, which would not eliminate Tarpon Bay Road, but the Gavin’s would still be recognized. He asked the City Council for their thoughts on that idea.

“We don’t do legislation on the fly. I sit here because people elected me to. I basically have listened to what the public wants and make decisions accordingly. That is really what I have prided myself on for 11 years to do,” Ruane said. “I think instead of doing something quickly and hastily, what you do is go through a process.”

He said to Gavin that it was unfortunate that he came to him when he did, just prior to last month’s meeting.

“I think there is an opportunity to have a historical discussion, have a planning commission discussion and have the public speak,” Ruane said. “I sit up here for the citizens of Sanibel, not for me.”

Gavin said he was not asking the city to do anything over night, but with his family having a centennial celebration he thought it would be something great to entertain because his family has talked about the name change for years.

“I think the process I am hearing up here is we want to go through the historical process, and hear the citizens input and obviously the planning aspect,” Ruane said. “Obviously any implications that we do, we want to make sure they fit into the Sanibel Plan and fit into what the people want.”

He went on to say that there was no one on the dais saying that his family had not been on the island for a long time and they would like to do something to recognize them and their contributions.

“Please don’t underestimate what we are all trying to do,” Ruane said, adding that he understands the family’s celebration was coming up, but the first time he had heard about the plans was July 17.

Denham said he thinks they should find some way to recognize distinguished citizens, but he was not sure they needed to make a decision that day.

Councilman Jason Maughan suggested a walking trail with interpretative panels because it would encourage people to walk in the same footsteps as previous stewards of the island.

Councilman Jim Jennings was also in support of giving the family some kind of recognition.