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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

Sanibel Island 1  
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 indeed captivate.

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 ambiance.

For more information, stop by the Island Historical Museum, 850 Dunlop Road. 472-4648.

Island Environment
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.

Sanibel Island 2  
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 poinsettias.

J.N. "Ding" Darling Refuge showcases the best of southern Florida's wildlife.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Center research and preservation facility.
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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