|A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee helps orient visitors to J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge in Florida. The refuge, which welcomes up to 700,000 visitors a year, is looking to ease traffic congestion on Sanibel Island.|
|Credit: Steve Hillebrand|
Coming Soon: A Tram to Ding Darling?
One thing that the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's Sanibel Island has never lacked is visitors. Up to 700,000 people come to the refuge each year to observe more than 238 species of birds on 6,400 scenic acres of mangrove forest, cordgrass marshes and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Traffic congestion on the island's two-lane roads has grown accordingly.
After several years of studying alternate transportation (http://www.dingdarlingtransportation.com/) and being able to accommodate crowds without subjecting wildlife to ever–higher levels of noise and car exhaust fumes, the island is nearing a decision. A recently announced $900,000 Federal Transit Administration grant to Lee County Transit (LeeTran), the island's public transportation service, in cooperation with the refuge and the city of Sanibel, will help fund the last step of the process.
One possible solution is an island-wide tram service. A tram would replace unessential cars and make regular scheduled stops at condos, hotels and the refuge entrance. Visitors could connect here with the refuge tram, which already carries people from one viewing site to another inside "Ding" Darling Refuge. Another possibility under consideration is expanding the island's network of bicycle trails.
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/ or call 239-472-1100.