Tag Archives: Parks and Preserves

Platts Creek Mitigation Project

Platts Creek Mitigation Project is an environmental restoration project in Port St. Lucie, Florida. This 102 acre piece of land once served as an orange grove and has been restored into its original shape as a wetland and dry prairie. I took the Conservation Science class offered through the Florida Master Naturalist Program at the Oxbow Eco Center where most of the indoor classes were held. Expert instructors led the classroom lectures and took us on field trips to nearby restoration preserves.

The highlight of the course I thought was the trip to the Platts Creek Mitigation project which was few miles away from OxBow. The orange grove was given back to the city and county of Port St Lucie for mitigation purposes when a land bridge was built across town connecting the beach to the mainland. Platts Creek has been re-established as a wetland and prairie which now helps to move water through various rivers and watersheds. It also acts as storm water management area when flooding occurs. Environmental land managers have planted native shrubs and trees that are native to Florida, giving the tract of land a more natural look and purpose and giving needed habitat to wildlife. We saw marshes and ponds that help to filter polluted water from the nearby St. Lucie River. There were many apple snail shells on the ground which were probably put there by Snail Kites which are unique birds to South Florida and The Everglades.

 I wasn’t able to finish all 4 days of the course which included a trip to the restored portion of the Kissimmee River which feeds Lake Okeechobee with most of its fresh water. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project  is one of the biggest land and environmental restoration projects occurring in the state and nation. I hope to go back and see the Kissimmee River as it is being restored to its natural state.
















Pop Ash Creek Preserve

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Pop Ash Creek Preserve is a 307 acre piece of land in northeast Lee County that is part of the Conservation 20/20  Program. Voters passed a referendum in 1996 which taxed property owners to purchase environmentally sensitive land for conservation and ecosystem protection. Since its inception, Lee County through the Conservation 20/20 program has acquired 123 properties and created 44 preserves which consists of over 24,000 acres.

Pop Ash Creek Preserve was purchased in 2003 for $1.5 million dollars. The land was heavily used for purposes such as soil and rock mining, agriculture and roads for moving cars through neighborhoods. Lee County and the Dept. of Natural Resources worked to reshape the land surfaces to make it look more natural as a wetland and dry prairie.  The preserve is located in a watershed consisting of other preserves and large tracts of land which help to move rain and slow moving water in a natural direction, southward. There are dry areas (mesic) and wet areas (hydric) that make up the Pop Ash Creek Preserve.

During my walk through the preserve which was led by an experienced  naturalist and guide we encountered a horse back rider who uses the trails for riding. It was nice to see the land used for purposes other than cars. The benefit of buying and preserving lands like Pop Ash is to re-establish land to its natural shape, allow ground water recharge, provide wildlife habitat and recreational uses for people.  The 1.5 mile walk through the preserve also allowed us to see filter marshes which helps to clean water which runs across the land and picks up fertilizers and other pollutants which would otherwise end up in our larger lakes and rivers.




Scarecrows at Lakes Park Community Gardens

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You know it is the Fall season when you see scarecrows in farmers crop fields and in homeowners gardens. Scarecrows symbolize the Fall Harvest season. The scarecrows in the pictures above were expertly decorated with colorful hats, clothes and faces by members of the Lakes Park Community Gardens. I had to take some pictures of these scarecrows in the community gardens  because they were so enjoyable and interesting to look at.

I am a member of the Lakes Park Community Gardens where people can rent a raised garden bed measuring 8 ft. by  4 ft. for $60 per year. There are over 70 raised garden beds in the fenced in area. I think some people got the fabulous idea to adorn the gardens with these scarecrows more for the aesthetic appeal than for the purpose of protecting their gardens from birds.

Scarecrows have been used by farmers all over the world for thousands of years to scare away birds who like to feed on the easy pickings of fruits and vegetables.  Egyptians used scarecrows on the banks of the Nile River to scare away quail from invading their crops. Japanese used them to protect their rice fields. Native Americans used them to protect their corn fields. The Ancient Greeks also used scarecrows to protect their vineyards.

According to the pumpkinnook.com website, the definition of scarecrow is “ that which frightens without doing physical harm”.



Salt Water Marshes and Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida located in the northeast corner of the state just north of Jacksonville is a beautiful barrier island with 13 miles of beaches. Salt water marshes surround much of the island and provide protection against beach erosion as well as providing a rich marine environment for aquatic marine life. The beaches are deep and long and provide people with plenty of room to walk, jog, lay out a blanket and enjoy the surf and views. Amelia Island has a rich history and has belonged to 8 different countries during Americas’ history . The name of the island came from Britain who named it after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.

During my brief stop on the island I enjoyed looking at the historic section of the island that has been preserved, the beaches which seem to go on forever, a long pier jutting out into the Atlantic ocean and the beautiful salt marshes which surround much of the island.  The salt water marshes provide food, spawning areas and protection from predators. Other coastlines and barrier islands like those which used to protect the Louisiana coastline near New Orleans could learn a lesson from the healthy salt marshes that protect Amelia Island. Amelia Island has a good website with additional information about this barrier island.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher



Blue Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher









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The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptile caerulea) is a song bird which lets out a loud shrill when it is calling out to other birds or trying to scare away intruders from their nesting and foraging areas. It is mostly grayish with a white underbelly. It flicks it’s tail back and forth trying to scare small insects and spiders from their hiding places to eat. They are common in forests with a lot of dense tree cover like the one where I saw this one at the Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers. This wetland park with a great 1.2 mile boardwalk to view a swampland and forest is also on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Gnatcatcher quickly flies from tree to tree and is hard to photograph. The second picture in this post is of the bird swinging it’s tail back and forth. There are many other small birds in this swampland and wet forest which allows these small birds plenty of places to build nests and small insects to feed upon. The All About Birds website has some good additional information about the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher.






Caracara Prairie Preserve Hiking Trail – Picture Gallery

Hiking Path

Hiking Path

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Bowditch Beach and Park

Bowditch Point and Park Bowditch Beach

Bowditch Point is the northern most point of Estero Island. It is a 17 acre piece of land owned and managed by Lee County and has 7 acres of recreational use and the other 10 acres are used as a preserve and restoration area. You can walk around the tip of Estero Island at this park and see the Gulf of Mexico, Matanzas Pass and the entrance of Estero Bay all within a few minutes. The upper part of the park has concession areas, picnic areas,  bathrooms, etc and some nice paths leading down to the beach. The park is designated as a Florida Birding Trail Site www.floridabirdingtrail.com  and is a great place to take pictures of the flora, birds and beaches. The park was named after Nathaniel Hawthorne who was responsible for the perfection of Celestial Navigation that is still used today. It’s a great place to see sunsets as well as views of Sanibel Island, Bunch Beach, Punta Rassa, Gulf of Mexico and San Carlos Bay. There are 75 parking spots, ($2 per hour) at the park. This park is one of the first that Lee County made available for people with disabilities from parking area to the beach. For more information go to www.leeparks.org  , click on facilities, beaches and Bowditch Park.

click in images for larger pictures                 photos by Dave Zuhusky

Manatee Park

Manatee Park with FMNP

Manatee Park with FMNP

Manatee Park is part of the Lee County Parks & Recreation system of parks and preserves that lets visitors see Mantees gently swimming in warmer waters during the winter months. Some Manatees swim up the Orange River to escape the cooler waters of the Gulf. Prime viewing times are from December to March. The park is staffed by volunteers and Interpretive Naturalists. There is a great walking path that you can stroll along and see Manatees swimming and floating in the water. The 17 acre park allows fishing from a  pier and there is a kayak/canoe rental service that allows you to paddle up or down the Orange River. I did this recently with a group in my FMNP Florida Master Naturalist Program.

The park is open from dawn to dusk and is located on State Rd. 80, Palm Beach Blvd in Ft. Myers. Take I-75 to exit 141 and go east 1 1/2 miles. The park with sign out front is on the right, across the street from the FPL Power Plant.  Website Information: http://www.leeparks.org/facility-info/facility-details.cfm?Project_Num=0088