Lee County Commissioners vote to suspend tolls for Sanibel beaches

Author: Camila Pereira Writer: Carolina Guzman
Published: Updated:

Getting to Sanibel beaches could cost you less.

Lee County Commissioners voted to suspend tolls every Sunday through Sept. 10 as part of the Savor the Shore campaign.

The last free pass on the schedule is Sunday.

The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted to extend the suspension of tolls on the Sanibel Causeway to include Sunday, Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, in support of the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest organized by the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The Collaboratory said they will reimburse the county for the tolls if they agree to suspend the tolls for every Sunday in September.

The actual revenue they would have to reimburse is estimated to be $120,000 to $150,000.

Businesses like Rosalita’s Cantina and Rachel Pierce’s Art Gallery are happy to hear there will be no tolls until after Sept. 24.

“Sundays are now our biggest day of the week, and like I said, it means everything for this business, especially during these difficult times,” said Rosalita’s General Manager Robert Wesley.

Pierce agrees.

“Just taking away that obstacle has really made a difference for us,” Pierce said.

The extension is meant to help businesses bounce back, but for some beach-goers, parking creates confusion.

Visitors say they are getting expensive parking tickets that are making them think twice about heading to Sanibel.

“Before it used to be you went to the kiosk, you type stuff in, you swipe your credit card. Now, it’s on your phone, and I think sometimes people are either walking by the little pay area and aren’t noticing they need to pay,” Pierce said.

This cost Cape Coral resident Tom Howe big time.

He traveled to Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel, but said he couldn’t pay for parking on the app.

“The problem is their system doesn’t work and then all of a sudden, I get a $150 ticket,” Howe said.

On Tuesday, a parking enforcer was around not just to issue parking tickets but also to help others who were also confused.

“I couldn’t find where the code was and if he wasn’t here, the parking enforcer, I wouldn’t have even known,” said Emily Howey, who was visiting the area.

It took almost 20 minutes for the Howey family to finally pay for parking.

At the Bowman’s Beach parking lot, folks said they want the “Savor Our Shore” promotion to work. But they need to fix the parking problem.

“They’re just doing a disservice to their local, small businesses,” Howe said.

Sanibel business owners said they would love to see toll-free Sundays become a monthly thing just to further motivate people to come out to the island.

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