Mayor Kevin Ruane issued the following statement upon notification of the passing of former Mayor Mark “Bird” Westall Sanibel.
“One of Sanibel’s strongest environmental voices has left us. We all owe Mayor Westall a great debt of gratitude for the legacy of environmental stewardship and the legacy of habit protection he left us. Protecting Sanibel was not only “Bird’s” call to public service but also his vocation and advocation.”
Mark “Bird” Westall served as a member of the City of Sanibel Planning Commission from 1985 to 1988; as the Vice Chair of the Planning Commission in 1988; as a member of City Council from 1988 to 1996; two terms as Sanibel’s Vice Mayor (1990 – 1991 and 1991 – 1992) and as one term as Mayor from 1992 to 1993.
Major legislative accomplishments during Mayor Westall’s tenure include the establishment of the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Conservation District, improving mangrove and wildlife habitat protection and the establishment of the Police Pension Fund for Sanibel’s officers.”
Details on the Memorial Service will be forthcoming.
Here’s a charming story John Christie of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote in 1986.
“THE SMALL OPENING IN THE BRUSH along Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel Island is like a door into another time and place. Pass through it and leave behind the burger joints, the trinket shops, the gas stations and that ubiquitous sign of progress, the dump truck. On the other side is the Sanibel River, where the anhinga slouches in the jungle canopy, where spiders the size of a man`s hand spin webs across your path, where alligators mate and snakes warm themselves on the river bank.
The river is the domain of one man, Mark Westall, a product of Indiana whose familiarity and love of Sanibel`s wildlife has earned him the nickname Bird. He makes a modest living from his “Canoe Adventures and Birding Tours“ on the Sanibel River, in the J. N. “Ding“ Darling Wildlife Refuge, and on Buck Key, off Captiva Island. For $25, he will meet you at one of these sites, pulling his three canoes on a trailer attached to an Isuzu Trooper.
Bird, 34, is tall and thin, his face prematurely gaunt and leathery. He is wearing jeans and a T-shirt, his straight black hair sticking out of a baseball cap. He slides the 17-foot Grumman off the trailer, hefts it over his head and slips it into the river, tossing in binoculars, bug spray, a machete and three paddles: two to row with and a third which he calls, in his flat farmboy accent, “The automatic web breaker.“
Bird is a virtuoso of the canoe paddle. Although the river is still, a lesser canoeist would easily become tangled in the dense overhang of buttonwoods, whose branches sometimes leave an opening only a little wider and higher than the canoe. But there is never a false move with Bird in the stern — and never a sound. Even a slight scraping of the paddle on gunwale could spook what we have come to see.” For the rest of the article, please see sun-sentinel.com.
Featured Image courtesy of Courtesy of Barb & Ron Kroll.