Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's in a Name (on Sanibel)? Bailey Legacy Will Live on in Many Ways.....

The obit was simply stated: "Francis P. Bailey, Jr., the remaining son of a pioneering Sanibel family that opened Bailey's General Store in 1899, died Saturday. He was 92."

But there was huge chunk of Sanibel history that was highlighted that day, June 8, as well.

Those who know and love the Island, are most familiar with the name of Bailey because of the supermarket established in his name, but the history of Sanibel was so tied into the life of Francis Bailey that a memory lane for the man is also one for the Island.

Bailey's  father moved to Sanibel at the age of 24, when land in our tropical paradise was only a few cents more than dirt-cheap. Though he was born only a few miles away in Ft. Myers, Francis Bailey was nearly a lifelong citizen of the island. Except for a few years in prep school, four years at Hampden-Sydney, and a stint in the Army, Bailey had lived his entire life on the island.

And he saw it in the best and worst of times.  Looking back, Bailey stated about his life on Sanibel:   “We had eight grades in one room, one teacher, one front door, one stove, one pencil sharpener, but we had two two-hole outhouses.”After the “snow birds” left Sanibel for the summer, the Baileys remained. Of course, there was no air conditioning and the hot, muggy weather was perfect for breeding mosquitoes “that were so thick you could take a quart can and swing it above your head and get a gallon of mosquitoes.”Escaping the mosquitoes was a constant struggle. Bailey says, “We had smudge pots and you always brushed off the screen door before we came in and were careful not to leave it open. Threaten to shoot the dog if he pushed it open. If you had to go some place in the evenin’, you’d get everybody all set together and run to the car and drive down the road with the doors open.”Despite being only a ferry ride away from Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island might as well have been on another planet. “We had no paved roads, no sidewalks, no drug store, no furniture store, no barber, no beauty shop, no movie theater. It was just here. Nobody felt deprived. That’s what we had.

Bailey’s General Store was along the shoreline where locals—and the many vacationers—disembarked from the ferry. A stop at Bailey’s store was one of the first things visitors would do, which proved to be relatively lucrative for the family. As the island grew, the store also grew. They enlarged it by closing in a porch. Later, the Baileys built a new Standard Oil station on the island along Periwinkle Way, which had become Sanibel’s main thoroughfare. The island, though only a few miles from Ft. Myers, was still remote and in a perpetual state of recovery from hurricanes.

Everything changed in 1963—on May 23 to be precise. That was the day the bridge connecting Sanibel to the mainland opened to traffic.

“At the time, Bailey said once in an interview, "I thought it would instantly change the island radically. It took two or three years for us to notice any big change. The island was growing—or regressing, depending on how you looked at it—anyway, but it was two or three years before we noticed any appreciable spurt. I think some of the real estate speculators started saying, ‘Hmm. It looks pretty good over there’.”

The beginning of the bridge was the end of the mail boat, which put Bailey’s General Store at the end of a dead-end road. Three years later, in 1966, the family moved the store to its current location on Periwinkle Way. The store also grew substantially. During the last 45 years, the store has evolved and now offers a wide variety of products, from baked goods and fresh vegetables to hammers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Always something to C.R.O.W. about on Sanibel

As we say (repeatedly), Sanibel Island is a one of a kind.

The jewel in Florida's crown.

A unique spot on the map of America.

And, the home of one of the most impressive animal rehabilitation centers in the world.  Yes, the world!

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, better known as C.R.O.W. , is a major bragging point for our very special tiny tropical island.

C.R.O.W. treats 4,000 animals annually, and while their patients are quite properly not permitted visitors, its public education center is worth a look, especially if you were previously unaware that acupuncture can be employed to treat tortoises.

What it has accomplished in the way of education and rehabilitation is quite remarkable and has won the Center applause, accolades and awards from a great number of agencies over the years.

Most recently, it took first place in the Gulf Guardian Awards.

The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (C.R.O.W) will receive a First Place 2013 Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/ Non-Profit Organization Category. The awards ceremony will be held on June 26 at the Tampa Bay Grand Hyatt beginning at 6 p.m.

C.R.O.W has been caring for and rehabilitating sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species, through a conservation medicine approach to care. In addition, C.R.O.W. provides education to young people and adults that increases awareness of appropriate human/wildlife interaction and emphasizes the need for conservation of Southwest Florida's coastal wildlife habitats.

Since its establishment in 1968, C.R.O.W. has treated and released more than 60,000 wildlife patients. C.R.O.W. sees thousands of patients each year representing more than 200 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. Many of these animals are threatened or endangered including wood storks, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, least terns, gopher tortoises and loggerhead, Kemp's ridley and green sea turtles.

C.R.O.W. is the only gulf coast facility between Sarasota and the Florida Keys licensed to care for sea turtles.

C.R.O.W. takes a conservation medicine approach to wildlife rehabilitation with the ultimate goal being the reintroduction of wildlife into their natural habitats and a reduction of wildlife casualties from human interaction through public education.

We hope you will forgive us this bit of bragging, but having witnessed the survival stories year after year; we can't help but take enormous pride in this outstanding organization!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pond Apple Park: A new attraction on Sanibel

As if having Ding Darling and the Bailey Tract was not enough room to roam in search for nature, Sanibel Island now has an additional preserve!

Pond Apple Park, despite its somewhat unusual name, is a 40 acre wild life preserve.  And the name really reflects the nature of the Preserve as it is filled with pond apples, a fruit favored by alligators. The fruit, when ripe,  is yellow to orange instead of white. The fruit is edible for humans and its taste is reminiscent of ripe Honeydew melon! 

The 1.6-mile loop trail of Pond Apple Park meanders through a pond apple slough, wetland marsh and West Indian hardwood hammock. The park is home to several rare and endangered species including bald eagles, wood storks, alligators, otters and bobcats. The trail is open year-round for hiking and biking during daylight hours.

Officially opened in 2011, it is a secret to many people, and one we may spoil with this post.

But for nature lovers, and many guests who frequent the Island are there for nature as much as for the beaches, it is one more great place to explore and enjoy, so we feel we need to get the word out.

The Pond Apple Park project, commenced July 2010, and was 100% grant funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009–2011 Forest Health Improvement Initiative Grant Program. A grant of $18,020 was provided to the City to establish four separate stands of native South Florida slash pine on City-owned lands known as Pond Apple Park and Paulsen Preserve.

In addition to pine trees, a variety of other native shade trees were planted along the trail at Pond Apple Park to provide shade for park visitors. In total, 487 trees were planted as a result of the project.

James Evans, Environmental Biologist with the City’s Natural Resources Department explained that funding provided by the Forest Health and Improvement Initiative Grant allowed the City to meet all of their project goals including: 1) establishing pine flatwoods at two city parks to provide critical wildlife habitat and to attract visitors to the parks; 2) stimulating the local economy by providing work for local contractors using a competitive bid process; and 3) reestablishing canopy nesting sites for bald eagles, which were impacted when Hurricane Charley destroyed the Australian pine canopy that previously provided nesting opportunities.

Citizens and visitors to Sanibel are encouraged to visit the City’s parks and enjoy the new habitats. The Pond Apple Park trailhead is located in the southwest corner of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce parking lot. A 1.6 mile loop trail takes visitors through various habitats including tropical hardwood forest, pine flatwoods, wetland forest and open water habitats where they can observe wildlife in their native habitats including bobcats, alligators, wading birds, migratory songbirds and bald eagles.

As always, caution is suggested and staying away from the water is the safest way to avoid any contact with the resident alligators.

But if you feel you have seen everything Ding Darling and the Bailey tract has to offer, you might well consider a stroll through Pond Apple!