Citizens Urged to Speak Out on Preserving Sanibel’s Beaches By Barbara Joy Cooley , president , Committee of the Islands Published in the Island Sun and Island Reporter on Friday , March 23 , 2012 An important meeting is scheduled for Tuesday , March 27 , regarding Sanibel’s beaches . All who care y : about the health of our beaches are urged to attend and speak out . Here’s wh About seven years ago , the city council and planning commission decided that the city should do a study of beach carrying capacity . They inserted a requirement to do this study in the Sanibel Plan , explaining that , “ The maintenance of a natural beach as a vital natural resource is important to the community’s quality of life and the economy of the City . For a variety of environmental , social , economic and historic reasons , it is important that the carrying capacity of the beach for wildlife is not diminished . ” The basis for that rationale hasn’t changed , but the city council has changed . The current council is now questioning this requirement in the plan ; however , Mayor Kevin Ruane says he wants to hear from the public on this subject before the council decides whether to nix the beach carrying capacity study from the Sanibel Plan . The first public discussion about this will be at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday , March 27 , at 9AM at the Sanibel City Hall , 800 Dunlop Road . Those who care about Sanibel’s beaches are encouraged to attend . The carrying capacity of the beaches was identified as a “ major issue ” the last time the Sanibel Plan was reviewed , in 2004 ? 2005 . This periodic review of the plan , called the “ Evaluation and Appraisal Report , ” or EAR , is about to begin again at the March 27 meeting . Causeway Crossings Highest Since 2004 The Sanibel Plan states that “ The carrying capacity and environmental quality of the island’s natural d on ? island physical growth and visitation coastal areas cannot be sustained if both off ? island an pressures are not addressed . ” If that was true in 2004 ? 2005 , isn’t it still true today ? Especially with signs that the economy is starting to recover ? Is there any real evidence that there are fewer people on the beaches today ? Is there any reason to believe that the number of people using Sanibel’s beaches will decline in the future ? In fact , the number of vehicles crossing the causeway in 2011 rose by 70,000 , to a total of 2,950,000 , the highest figure since 2004 . And January 2012 crossings were up 4.8 % from 2011 .How do we set reasonable limitations on the use of Sanibel’s beaches without the data to support those decisions ? The Sanibel Plan asserts that “ To preserve the natural condition of Sanibel beaches , there is a need to determine acceptable limits of change , if any , to the Gulf Beach Zone . . . . There remains a need to develop a scientific methodology to establish baseline conditions , to monitor the change of conditions over time and to assess the extent to which these changes can be attributed to human activities . ” Although the requirement to do this study has been in the Sanibel Plan for seven or so years , it has not yet been done . Is it time to do the study ? Or is it time to dismiss the importance of our beaches by eliminating this requirement from the Plan ? The first opportunity for Sanibel citizens to voice their concerns about this issue will be on March 27 at ng commission meeting . The Mayor has asked for our input ; let''s show up . . . . and speak out . the planni The Committee of the Islands welcomes your input on this subject . Email your comments to u can coti @ coti.org . You can find commentaries on other island issues on our web site at coti.org , and yo visit Committee of the Islands on Facebook .