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Island Seniors create incentive program to help with parking

March 14, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Finding a parking spot at some Sanibel facilities and businesses can be a problem, especially during season, but one venue has implemented an innovative program in an effort to address the issue.

Last season, the Center 4 Life realized that there was a growing problem with the lack of available parking at the facility. Island Seniors, the membership group at the center, knew something had to be done. Member Bud Reinhold explained that the issue was most apparent for the morning programs.

The group currently has about 850 members, with only 46 on-site parking spots. In the mornings, the handful of exercise classes and such are well attended, leaving many searching for a place to park.

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Volunteer Diane Kavalauskas provides member Kathy MacRae with a dollar for braving the rain and riding her bicycle to the aerobics class at the Center 4 Life on Sanibel.

"We had a parking problem," he said, adding that it was worse between January and Easter.

"This is during high season," Reinhold said.

In addition, the center's aim is to provide a place for members and guests to spend their time.

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"It's a community center, a social center, so we encourage people to stay," he said.

Reinhold came up with a campaign to promote biking, walking or carpooling in the morning.

"This would prevent someone from parking there," he said.

Stickers were created and handed out, and posters were printed and put up at the center, even signs were concocted and put up at local businesses. But, the campaign was not gaining any traction.

"We tried to encourage people," Reinhold said. "It really wasn't having an impact."

"There just didn't seem to be much motivation," he added.

As high season arrived again and the problem began to arise, Reinhold suggested a new option.

"I thought of the idea of rewarding people for biking, walking, carpooling," he said.

Around mid-February, Island Seniors began offering $1 per day to members who bicycled, walked or carpooled to the center - anything that did not involve driving and taking up a parking lot space.

As of last week, over $100 had been dispensed to people participating in the program.

"It's very positive," Reinhold said. "There's a lot of buzz about it."

Mondays through Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m., when attendance is at its peak, a rotating schedule of volunteers hand out the dollars. The volunteers include Tom Addison, Sandy Baumchen, Judy Davis, Peter Davis, Terry Dorr, Michael Holloway, Diane Kavalauskas, Steve Kavalauskas, Eileen Kehoe, Dick Talsky and Joyce Talsky, as well as Reinhold. The program will run through March.

"So it addresses a specific problem at a specific time," he said.

As estimated 10 percent of the eligible recipients have declined the dollar.

Kehoe, former Island Seniors board member, explained that others "light up" over the dollar.

"I think they're surprised to hear about it for the first time," she said of the program. "I think it's just something different. No one else on the island is doing this."

Reinhold explained that the center had previously tried to come up with a solution to the limited parking. The nearby Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market has always been happy to share its parking. The center even considered building a bridge over the swamp separating the lots, but it was costly.

"This program is a lower-cost solution to parking problems than spending thousands of dollars to connect with other parking lots or renting vacant lots," he said.

Kehoe pointed out that similar programs could be implemented elsewhere on-island.

"I think it could grow," she said. "It's an idea other businesses could use."

Reinhold agreed.

"We're just trying to highlight there's a problem and here's a solution and they can participate in the solution," he said.

While the board will have to approve the program for next season, the issue will still exist.

"We're stuck with what we have," Reinhold said of the center's parking situation. "We do have a continuing parking problem."

For more information about the center and memberships, call 239-472-5743.

The Center 4 Life is at 2401 Library Way, Sanibel.



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