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Prairie Pines Preserve to permit horses, llamas

By Staff | Aug 11, 2009

The second most prominent 20/20 Conservation project in Lee County opened Monday with an unusual announcement — besides more than 20 miles of trails for horses, local llama owners are invited to use the site to walk their pets.
“This proves why North Fort Myers is a unique area,” said Lee County Commissioner and area North Fort Myers resident Tammy Hall.
The remark about llamas was made by Barbara Manzo, acting director of Lee County Parks & Recreation.
“We probably won’t have many takers on the llamas, but we do offer that here,” she said.
Besides the 20-mile-plus area open to local horseback riders, there is a provision for llama owners to walk their pets. There is also double-long parking spaces for riding enthusiasts to bring their horse trailers.
The llamas comment brought laughs and cheers from the local citizens who attended the event, knowing the area is a special place in hard economic times.
Gayle Schmidt of the Lee County Bird Patrol brought the point home.
“We use wild spaces to push the reset button,” she said. “We can learn life lessons without a Blackberry. It’s free and better therapy than the couch.”
Numerous community individuals, civic leaders and officials braved the August heat to come to the dedication on Prairie Pines.
Hall was the official emcee, with Lee County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Ray Judah and others making memorable speeches.
Other notables included Jo Harder from the Caloosa Saddle Club, who sat behind the stage atop her horse, Chica, and made her welcoming speech there.
Prairie Pines Preserve is located at 18400 N. Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers, across the street and south of Del Tura Country Club. The entrance and parking area will be off of Route 41.
The preserve also fosters numerous endangered species, according to Kathy Olson, Conservation 20/20 senior supervisor.
The preserve cost the county a little over $11,790,000. It was acquired on April 27, 2001, as part of the 20/20 Conservation project.
All of Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 preserves are open to the public with recreation opportunities for hiking, bird watching, nature photography and nature study. Several preserves offer advanced recreation opportunities including fishing, kayaking, canoeing and horseback riding.
To learn more, go to: conservation2020.org and then click on preserves.