provided to The Santiva Chronicle
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce returned to its in-person business luncheon format Wednesday, Oct. 13, featuring guest speakers Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and Lynnae Messina, associate executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.
The meeting, held in an outdoor tent at The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, was sponsored by Vector & Ink, which unveiled the cover for the chamber’s 2022 annual visitor guide at the beginning of the meeting.
Alex Bustmante, general manager of Vector & Ink, which has published the chamber’s visitor guide for 15 years, and John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer, unveiled the beachscape image and introduced winning photographer Rob Hoovis with Old Sparky Productions in Fort Myers.
After lunch, Westland and Messina teamed up to fill chamber members in on what has been going on at the refuge and what is upcoming. Highlights included the WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile outreach classroom that the refuge and DDWS completed late last year, just in time to bring field trips out to the community.
“We could no longer bring busloads of students to the refuge for education during the initial COVID outbreak,” said Westland. “WoW allowed us to reach hundreds of kids and adults during that time. And now we’re back again to carefully conducting school field trips along with the community outreach.”
Messina displayed art especially created for DDWS’ release of Wild Daze Ale beer on Dec. 4 at Fort Myers Brewing Co. She also talked about the start of restoration efforts at the 68-acre Lee Anne Tauck Conservation Tract, which the refuge acquired in 2019 through DDWS fundraising and a partnership with Lee County Conservation 20/20 program.
“We will be inviting the public for input on how we can make the tract accessible once we’ve taken out all the exotics,” said Westland. “With BP money and other grants, we want to restore the wetlands habitat for roseate spoonbills and our other shore birds. We’re thinking paths for just foot and bike traffic, probably.”
The team handed out candy prizes to those who answered questions about “Ding” correctly, including what anniversary DDWS is currently celebrating. That answer is 40th.
“We congratulate the refuge friends group for all it has accomplished in four decades to keep the refuge running in hard times and supporting water research, conservation education, and valuable wildlife habitat,” said Lai. “As one of the islands’ main attractions and economic drivers, ‘Ding’ remains a vital partnership for the chamber and our business community.”
Wednesday, Oct. 13, marks the chamber’s next monthly business meeting, to be held at Casa Ybel Resort. Sam Ankerson, the recently appointed executive director of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, will speak at the meeting.
The chamber is seeking sponsors for that luncheon. Contact communications and marketing manager Landen Drake at landen @sanibel-captiva.org or 239-472-8255; or director of operations Mitch Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-472-8759 for more information.
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.
For more information about the chamber, visit sanibel-captiva.org or contact Landen Drake, communications and marketing manager, at 239-472-8255 or Landen@sanibel-captiva.org.