Fifty Years After the First Bridge Brought Growth to Sanibel Island, The Sanibel-Captiva Chamber Illuminates Why Sanibel Island Remains a Natural Choice for Nature Lovers

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Fifty years after the first bridge opened the door to an onslaught of development, Sanibel Island remains unscathed due to the tenacity of residents and their creation of the Sanibel Plan.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, Florida - Nature Preserve

"We are thankful that the bridge connected us and then The Sanibel Plan was put into effect, as it is critical to our eco-tourism,” said Ric Base, President of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce.

In 1963, the Sanibel Bridge was built connecting Sanibel Island, Florida to Fort Myers, the mainland. This connection brought people from near and far. At that time, Sanibel Island with a population of approximately 7,000 people was subject to the zoning ordinances for Lee County, Florida. As a result, it was zoned to allow a population of 90,000 people within its 17 square miles of well-preserved land.

Sanibel Island’s population and commercial growth began to encroach upon the natural beauty; which was so loved by residents and visitors alike. Residents coalesced to stop the damage to the island and it became an incorporated city. Two years later, the city adopted The Sanibel Plan, utilizing an extensive environmental inventory of the island as a basis for all future decisions regarding the use of land.

Fifty years after the first bridge opened the door to an onslaught of development, Sanibel Island remains unscathed. Sanibel Island offers 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, 22 miles of bike paths, 50 kinds of fish, 230 kinds of birds, 250 kinds of shells and 0 traffic lights.

Sanibel Island spans over 21,000 acres and over 60% is a protected conservation preserve. To maintain its beautiful skyline, no building can be taller than the tallest tree (three stories).

8,000 acres of Sanibel Island comprise The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge holds a “Ding” Darling Days’ celebration annually. This year, the celebration begins Oct. 20, kicking off a week of eco-activities with all-free refuge tours, live wildlife presentations, kids crafts, and more.

“The residents of Sanibel are passionate about keeping Sanibel… Sanibel,” said Ric Base, President of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce. “Visitors come here to soak up the sun, ride bikes, enjoy the beaches, collect shells and check out the extraordinary wildlife on Sanibel Island. Maintaining the natural backdrop is critical for providing visitors the vacation they seek. We are thankful that the bridge connected us and thereafter The Sanibel Plan was put into effect, as it is critical to our eco-tourism.”

With a plethora of things to do like exploring mangrove tunnels by kayak; sunning at Lighthouse Beach Park while watching for migratory birds taking a pause after long flights over the Gulf; or discovering all the Ding Darling Refuge has to offer; Sanibel Island is the natural choice for a nature-lover’s vacation.

For information on Sanibel Island, visit the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce at http://www.sanibel-captiva.org or the visitor’s center at 1159 Causeway Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957.

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Sean Breckley
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