provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Erosion and safety drive Lee County’s three-year project to improve the two Sanibel causeway islands, Jesse Lavender, director of Lee County Parks & Recreation, told members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce at its April 14 virtual business meeting.
“This is your corridor from the mainland, and we’re going to do it right,” he said. “These two islands will get re-created in a fashion that gets us set for the future and addresses safety issues – on-and-off access points and erosion. We want to make a really nice corridor for people who live on the islands and for visitors — to keep that nice ‘I’m on the islands, this is why I’m here’ feeling.”
The newest measure Lavender announced at the meeting is the addition of two T-groins on Island A, closest to the mainland, to prevent erosion and the need to renourish the beach every year or so. They will also help address the problem with waves washing up over the base of the island during high tides and storm events.
Other new measures of the $8.5 million project will include limiting driveways onto both islands, designating parking spots, restricting RV parking to Island A, building restrooms on Island A, renourishing the beach on Island B, creating new jet ski ordinances, and planting native landscaping on both islands.
“We want to keep the nature of these islands as close to what you have experienced all these years, without putting a seawall up,” said Lavender. He emphasized the high priority of maintaining the islands’ recreational opportunities for nonmotorized sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing.
Events such the Easter Sunrise Service and annual Sanibel Sea School fundraiser will be grandfathered in and their venues enhanced, but no other such events will be permitted.
Construction will take place starting in July through June 2024. During that time, one side of the islands will always remain open for recreation, he said. It will not impact the roadway at all; no changes are being made to the elevation or other aspects of the drive.
The number of designated parking spots on the islands will likely cut down available parking space. The county has not yet determined the total number of spaces nor whether eventually it will charge for parking.
New chamber board of directors chair Mark Blust ,in his introduction, called Lavender “a dedicated public servant…. His leadership has done wonders for our county.”
“You have certainly spurred a lot of conversation,” chamber president and chief executive officer John Lai told Lavender. “We’re excited about the project and grateful for the opportunity to open the discussion. We’re anxious to see what it looks like.”
Lai, in his opening comments, also reported on the chamber’s legislative priorities activities for water quality locally and in Tallahassee, where he attended sessions with Captains for Clean Water March 19 through April 1. “They were great meetings, and we look forward to those efforts coming to fruition.”
The next chamber virtual business meeting will take place at noon on Wednesday, May 12, with a water-quality panel including South Florida Water Management District governing board member Chauncey Goss and SCCF environmental policy director James Evans. Plans are for the June meeting to run in an in-person format. For more details, contact Lai at 239-472-2348 or John@sanibel-captiva.org.