Sanibel continues to work toward bringing its community back to normal

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Sanibel was one of the places hit hardest by Hurricane Ian, and months later, many people still have questions about what is next.

The people who live on the island are getting their chance to ask those questions. Sanibel held a meeting and people were able to write down their questions to have them answered.

“I would say that the people of Sanibel and the business community of Sanibel are very much united in rebuilding the island and building it back better than what we had before,” said Dr. Scott Crater, a Sanibel councilman.

The rebuild is in full swing. On Wednesday, members of Sanibel’s city council went to the chamber of commerce luncheon and vowed to restore the island to its former glory.

“No one wants to give up. We all want to go back. We all want to build back smart, smarter, and we’re going to do that. It’s going to take time and patience,” Crater said.

Unlike the town hall meetings on Fort Myers Beach that got heated, Sanibel’s meeting showcased unity despite the fact people are anxious for services to be restored.

“Everyone on the island had some impact. Virtually every building had some form of flooding. Every yard, every business was damaged,” said Crater.

The Sanibel Lighthouse. CREDIT: WINK News

Some positive announcements came from Wednesday’s meeting, including plans to light the Sanibel Lighthouse and a reopening of the Sanibel School by January.

The reopening of beaches and public access to the island is still a ways away.

“The recovery of the beaches is going to be a longer term process. So you’ll see the bridge open to everybody before you’ll see beach access open to everybody,” said Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza. “You know that Sanibel is a special and cherished place. And as we rebuild, we want to make sure that that’s preserved.”

“We will have sandy beaches in our future. And Hurricane Ian will be a memory. It’s a memory that’s going to last a lifetime for all of us. But it’s going to be a memory,” said Crater.

People who live on Sanibel are still not quite used to their new normal. The causeway has been repaired, but as for work done on the island, people still have questions about the progress.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s a high level of frustration. I think that there’s anticipation, and then sometimes is anxiety,” said Souza.

Members of Sanibel’s city council promise everyone who lives or work on the island that they will rebuild. They just need time and patience.

“We’re going to do our best to keep Sanibel exactly the way it was on September 27, 2022,” said Crater. “The lighthouse will be lit soon. I’m gonna get the exact date from the city manager. And, of course, the coast guard is the one that determines that. But we look forward to having Sanibel light lit. And at some point in 2023, the public can come down and see the Sanibel light close up. Maybe with its artificial leg in place, but it’s still there.”

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