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Sanibel Island Vision Statement
Sanibel is and shall remain a barrier island sanctuary, one in which a diverse population lives in harmony with the island's wildlife and natural habitats. The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics.
The City of Sanibel will resist pressures to accommodate increased development and redevelopment that are inconsistent with the Sanibel Plan, including this vision statement. The City will guard against and, where advisable, oppose human activities in other jurisdictions that might harm the island's sensitive habitats, including the island's surrounding aquatic ecosystems.
Sanibel is and shall remain a small town community whose members choose to live in harmony with one another and with nature, creating a human settlement distinguished by its diversity, beauty, uniqueness, character, and stewardship.
The Sanibel community recognizes that its attractiveness to visitors is due to the island's quality as sanctuary and as community.
The City of Sanibel will welcome visitors who are drawn by, and are respectful of, these qualities; it will resist pressures to accommodate visitor attractions and activities that compromise these qualities.
About the Island
The history of Sanibel and Captiva Islands is drawn in the sand. The
islands came into existence as a high ridge of sand stabilized, grew and
eventually split into two. Their shell-cluttered sands continue to define
the islands as a premier resort and wildlife refuge destination.
The island's early human history proceeded at the pace of their
gopher tortoises. Habitation, from the days of the mound-building Calusa
Indians until the erection of the causeway in 1963, remained sparse and
rugged. Ponce de Leon became Sanibel's first tourist in 1513, when he named
the island for Spain's Queen Isabella, a regal name it richly deserves.
Captiva legend attributes its name to a bygone prison camp
established by the pirate Gasparilla for comely kidnap victims. Whether or
not the old sea tale holds water, it's a known fact that Captiva Island does
A short-lived colony on Sanibel, and later a lighthouse reservation,
filled the gap between conquistadors and homesteaders. The latter settled
the islands circa 1890.
At various times in their past, Sanibel and Captiva supported citrus
and tomato farms, communities of fishermen and a coconut plantation. The
1920's through the 1940's saw well-to-do notables making their way to the
islands, intent upon anonymity in the wilds. Most famous were aviator
Charles Lindbergh and wife Anne. Here Anne Morrow Lindbergh was inspired to
pen her well-loved seaside reflections in Gift From The Sea.
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and conservation activist Jay N.
"Ding" Darling gained Captiva and Sanibel islands national attention by
fighting for their natural attributes during his regular visits. Teddy
Roosevelt also came to the islands to cast a line and snag a stingray or two.
In 1926, ferry service to Sanibel began transporting residents and
tourists from the mainland to the islands. The departure of the day's last
ferry closed the islands down at 5:30 p.m..
Over-development threatened Sanibel's refugee role soon after the
bridge was built, and the islanders decided to screech on the brakes by
incorporating their own government. Strict restraints to building slowed
development and continue to keep it environmentally compatible.
The island's protected wetlands attract flocks of bird watchers and
nature lovers. Sanibel's skyline has changed considerably over the years.
Old-timers tell of the days when you could see the lighthouse from mid-island. The introduction of the Australian pine tree around 1910, brought the island and
its first tall trees and much of its romance. Along with the islands' native and exotic fruit trees, flowering shrubbery and lush palms, they provide
habitat for rare wildlife species and a chromatic, aromatic Garden of Eden
For more information, stop by the Island Historical Museum, 850 Dunlop Road. 472-4648.
Sandy shoreline stretches from the historic Sanibel Lighthouse to
Captiva's Redfish Pass. Sanibel's east-west heading helps prevent beach
erosion and enhances beach combing finds, making it the third best shelling
spot in the world.
Island beaches are also known for their protection of nesting
loggerhead turtles. All wildlife is protected on Sanibel. The island's
unofficial wildlife ambassador is the alligator. In birddom, the osprey gets
the particular attention via the Sanibel-based International Osprey Fund.
The Audubon Society also has a local chapter and various other wildlife
protection groups gather on environmentally conscious Sanibel.
Cabbage palms, gumbo limbos, wild coffee, railroad vines, sea oats,
sea grapes, sea hibiscus and blue porterweed are some of the island's native
plants. The rare and threatened joewood, a blossoming, shrubby tree, has
been designated Sanibel's official plant.
With it's rare tropical climate, the island's are suitable for exotic
fruit and flowering plant
cultivation. You'll find yards fragrant and colorful with bougainvillea,
hibiscus, mango, bananas, key limes, papayas, avocados, gardenias and
J.N. "Ding" Darling Refuge showcases the best of southern Florida's
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Center research and preservation
The Baily-Mathews Shell Museum.
The C.R.O.W. (Care and Rehabilitation of Wildlife)
The classic bent-from-the-waist shelling stance, here in the Shelling Capital of the Western Hemisphere, has its own name: The Sanibel Stoop. The
rare junonia is the trademark shell prize of the island. More common finds
include lightning whelks, scallops, cockles, worm shells, conchs, sand
dollars and lace murex.
Sanibel law prohibits the taking of live shells.
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