Social Media Challenge Sparks Proposed Ordinance

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

A social media challenge has sparked a proposed ordinance regulating the digging of holes on the beach. It is among three proposed ordinances to be discussed Tuesday, July 19 in the Sanibel City Council meeting.

In June, a “Digging Holes Challenge” was issued on the video-based social media platform TikTok and challenged people to dig four-to-five-feet deep holes on the beach then post a video of it. Island residents and city staff have reported routinely finding and filling dangerously large holes on the beach since then.

In response, the Natural Resources Department issued a press release to raise awareness of the dangers deep holes pose to people and wildlife. They can trap vulnerable sea turtle and shorebird hatchlings, which could lead to their demise.

Since the Sanibel Code of Ordinances does not restrict the digging of holes on the beach to a specific size, the police department is recommending an amendment to regulate the size of holes dug and require they be filled.

The objective is to not prohibit children and families from digging small holes or sandcastles, but to avoid dangerously deep holes on our beach, City Manager Dana Souza wrote in a memo.

City staff also intends to develop educational material in digital and print to inform visitors on how to enjoy the island without leaving lasting footprints which affect others and wildlife.

An ordinance prohibiting non-human powered vehicles on the beach will have its first reading Tuesday. In May, council discussed safety concerns over increased electric-bicycle traffic on the beach and a draft ordinance was presented in June.

Two revisions to the draft were recommended – amending a section to broaden the already-existing restrictions against engine-powered vehicles to include e-bikes and rescinding a section of code. The draft ordinance could move to a second reading and public hearing in August.

Cigarette Smoking at Beach and Parks
Last month Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 105, which gives municipalities the ability to prohibit smoking, except for unfiltered cigars, at city beaches and parks. Council will discuss drafting an ordinance restricting smoking at the beach and parks.

Low Speed Vehicles
In June, Councilman Scott Crater requested council consider a prohibition on low speed vehicles on Sanibel Captiva Road, except for the Santiva area near Blind Pass, for public safety.

Properly equipped low speed vehicles are allowed on streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, but the city can prohibit them on any of its streets in the interest of safety. Council will discuss Crater’s proposal and provide direction to staff.

Pilot Program Proposed for Boat Ramp Parking
Police Chief Bill Dalton is recommending a one-year pilot program at the Sanibel Boat Ramp to better manage it and the parking area. Increases in the daily parking fee and violation fees, as well as restricting parking on holidays and weekends to AC and BC parking permits, are being proposed.

Content Natural Sign Ordinance Nearly Final
The content neutral sign ordinance will have its second reading and public hearing. City staff is recommending further amendments to minimize enforcement challenges and “changes to the status quo as it relates to use of temporary signage” to the extent practical, following a review of public comment after the first reading last month.

Comments (5)

  1. Maureen McGarty

    Please stop digging deep holes on the beach. I witnessed a 6yr old suffocated by climbing in an abandoned hole left by some teenagers. Amazing the beach was very crowded and nobody noticed until he was missing.

  2. All good ideas in my opinion. The holes on the beach are out of control and no bikes should be allowed at all not just e-bikes. The last 2 seasons the low speed vehicles have added to the traffic problem and are just a novelty to vacationers ir does nothing for the environment. We at least need to require they be electric which will at least help the environment.

  3. Agree to:
    1. No deep digging in beaches in SANIBEL and Captiva. Any holes made regardless of depth should be filled before leaving the beach.
    2. No smoking or littering on beaches.
    3. No electric or manually driven vehicles on the beaches.
    4. Slow moving vehicles should be allowed on SANIBEL/Captiva Road. Dangerous because of the volume of traffic.

  4. The prohibition of bikes on the beach should be all bikes or no bikes. The class of E bikes allowed on the island are not effectively different than regular bikes.

    Proposed limitations on low speed vehicles on San Cap road if passed should be limited to “ rush hours” . One can get close to Ding Darling entrance via Rabbit Road but there is no way to get from Ding Darling exit without going on San- Cap until Rabbit Road. Low speed vehicles( aka electric street legal golf carts) are non polluting and a perfect way to enjoy Ding Darling without disturbing the wildlife.

  5. Sanibel island is known for its birds, turtles and wildlife. We must do all we can to protect these assets. Therefore holes on the beach must be discouraged and be regulated.

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