by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
photos/video by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
Since its inception in the early 1990s, the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island has experienced many changes. This year is no different.
With continuous flooding on the property due to climate change issues, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has begun working on a project to reduce water intake and improve the 20 acres of land that engulfs the residency.
However, Kendall Baldwin, one of the architects working with the foundation, said rather than working against climate change, this project would work with it.
“The goal was really simple,” Baldwin said. “How can they fortify their property, which is tremendously vulnerable from the imminent challenges of climate change?”
To answer this, Baldwin joined the Captiva Community Panel for their Tuesday meeting to discuss the project in depth.
Baldwin, from WXY Studios architectural firm based in New York City, has been working closely with the Rauschenberg Residency since planning began in 2016.
Ann Brady, the residency’s director and CCP member, was also at Tuesday’s meeting and said even though their planning began several years ago, they have been given a unique time frame to complete the project faster due to the global pandemic.
“The pandemic offered an unanticipated opportunity for us to fast track all of the work,” Brady said. “We are spending 2021, into probably the first two months of 2022, to complete the entire project.”
Baldwin said that while no existing buildings on the property will be removed, there will be a new building constructed, nestled into the property’s natural vegetation along the corner of Captiva Drive and Laika Lane.
This building, that will be close to 6,000 square feet, will serve functions of the other buildings on the property that have been compromised due to flooding. These functions include artist studios, common areas and dining, but will be built in a sustainable manner.
“The building is designed with the intention of being a low carbon build meaning that we’re endeavoring to use salvaged materials, use local materials, really keep our carbon footprint low wherever possible,” Baldwin said.
The project will also address the existing property, including creating a centralized water line, improving the natural flora and establishing more environmentally friendly ways to deal with the property’s flooding and climate change as a whole.
One of those manners in dealing with flooding is to create a wet, coastal meadow, allowing natural vegetation to grow in the northeast section of the property in an area called Weeks Field. Baldwin said doing this engulfs what the project is all about.
“I think it’s a really excellent example of how the foundation is working with climate change, not against climate change,” Baldwin said. “When [water] does come onto the property, how can we deal with it in a positive, productive manner.”
But with Weeks Field turning from a clear meadow to an area that’s filled with vegetation, the Captiva Fire Department now needs a new place to land their helicopter.
Jeff Brown, a commissioner on the Captiva Island Fire Control District board, was also at the CCP meeting on Tuesday to inform the panel that the fire department can no longer use Weeks Field for EMS helicopter use.
Brown said ever since someone had an allergic reaction and needed to be flown out of the Rauschenberg property about 30 years ago, the late Robert Rauschenberg himself allowed the fire department to use his field for helicopter use, which was carried on by the foundation that followed him.
“[Robert] Rauschenberg was so impressed with that and saw how valuable that was that he allowed the fire department and the county to access his property while he was alive,” Brown said. “Since his death, the foundation has generously allowed us to utilize that site for a landing zone for medical helicopters.”
Now, the fire department has to find a new landing zone. Captiva Fire Chief Jeff Pawul said they have three landing zones they can use, but not all of them are ideal landing spots for the helicopter.
Pawul said that Captiva doesn’t own the helicopter, but rather LeeFlight does, which is a county operation. Their parameters for a landing zone are that it has to be 100 feet by 100 feet with little to no overhead obstructions.
One such area can be found at Osprey Court near the southern end of Sanibel. Pawul said the only problem with using this property is that they don’t own it. They can still use the area for now, but he said addressing the panel on their issue was a priority.
“We really just wanted to alert the island and educate everybody on basically what’s recently developed, and the options that we’re going to need to start to explore to rectify the situation,” Pawul said.
In terms of the importance of having a helicopter to land on the island, Pawul said that only a handful of people a year need a helicopter transport. But with the long drive from Captiva to the nearest medical facility, Pawul said having a landing zone is essential.
“It may not sound like a large number, five maybe 10 at the most in a year, doesn’t sound like very much,” Pawul said. “But if you’re that one person, or you know that one person a year, you understand the importance of having a place to land a helicopter.”
Before discussions of the Rauschenberg Residency and helicopter landing sites were discussed at the CCP meeting, panel members took a few seconds of silence to remember an old friend.
Dave Jensen, one of the members in the family-owned businesses of Jensen’s Marina and Cottages and Jensen’s “On the Gulf” Beach Resort on Captiva, passed away at the age of 65 in February in his newly adopted home of Italy.
At the beginning of the panel meeting on Tuesday, CCP President Jay Brown gave his condolences and said nobody embodied Captiva better than Dave Jensen.
“To me, Dave was the Captiva brand,” Brown said. “Nothing said Captiva more than Dave Jensen. It’s a devastating loss for us all.”
Other CCP Topics:
• Governor has changed the requirements for the vaccine starting on March 15
• People 60 and older are able to get a vaccine, as well as frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff
• People deemed medically vulnerable at any age
• All sworn law enforcement, firefighters and K-12 personnel who are 50 years or older
Iguana Control MSTU Update
• The island’s trapper has not been on the island the past few weeks due to a motorcycle accident
• 575 petitions needed to form the MSTU. 411 petitions have been received
• Unit does not form if 575 petitions aren’t reached
• Petitions are due to the county on April 1, but due to CCP by March 29
• CCP is meeting with Mike Sawicki and Jeff Pawul to discuss pre- and post-hurricane planning
• Also, will discuss how they can keep the Captiva community in the loop with these protocols
• Any questions/suggestions about protocols should email firstname.lastname@example.org