Summer traffic and violations at the Sanibel Causeway Islands Park escalated this year, Jesse Lavender, director of Lee County Parks & Recreation, told members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce’s during an Aug. 10 business luncheon. The issue encouraged Lee County to step up its safety measures in Phase 2 of the park’s three-and-a-half-year, $8.5-million improvement project.
“There were more and more instances, and the pandemic didn’t help,” Lavender said. “People coming from the East Coast were maybe thinking our laws were more lax, and they could come here to have a vacation and party it up.”
The filled-to-capacity chamber monthly meeting took place at the newly renovated Captiva Island Yacht Club, sponsored by SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Lavender explained how the county responded with added support from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department on weekends, especially holidays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, An off-hours surveillance tower, or “cop in a box,” as he called it, works similarly to a motion sensor with a spotlight and automatic messaging to let people know when the park is closed and they should leave. The heightened law enforcement details will continue year-round as needed.
Furthermore, the county and city of Sanibel monitored social media channels for news of large gatherings, such as a monster-truck group that had planned to meet there – a potential detriment not only the quiet of the setting, but also to the water and the islands themselves.
The county is currently erecting about 4,000 posts to control parking patterns, plus “no parking,” “one-way,” and other signage. The posts will be part of a final strategy of posts and ropes to delineate parking. No paving, parking bumpers, or fee system will be part of the parking plan.
“The general consensus is what we’re doing out there is working,” said Lavender.
Now close to 60 percent designed, the causeway project has completed Phase 1, which concentrated on T-groins and renourishment to protect the islands’ beaches against erosion. Phase 3 will target amenities on Island A, closest to Sanibel, including restrooms, which may or may not be permanent structures.
After 13 years of public input, the county is still accepting comments and suggestions at the Lee County Parks causeway web site, where anyone interested can also view project plans. Originally slated for completion June 20, 2024, that date has been changed to December 31, 2024.
In other chamber business, John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer, made a presentation to Fran Peters for her past service as the 2014-2015 Board of Directors chair upon her recent retirement from Island Vacations of Sanibel & Captiva, which she started in 1998.
“Without Fran’s guidance and leadership, the chamber wouldn’t be where it is today,” said Lai. “I know I wouldn’t be.”
The next chamber business luncheon takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the Sundial Beach Resort on Sanibel Island. It will feature guest speaker John Talmage, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office, starting at 11:30 a.m. and sponsored by the Santiva Chronicle. Members will receive emails about registration. For more information, contact Landen Collins at 239-472-8255 or [email protected].
ABOUT SANIBEL & CAPTIVA ISLANDS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. With more than 460 active Chamber members from both islands and businesses from Lee and Collier counties, the Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. The Francis P. Bailey, Jr., Chamber Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Sanibel Island and welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers in the state. It is open 365 days a year and provides comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, and where to stay, shop, and dine. The chamber website sanibel-captiva.org receives more than 1.3 million website visits per year.