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SCCF plan for Bailey Homestead purchase to retain wildlife corridor

By Staff | Dec 1, 2010

An aerial image of the Bailey Homestead showing surrounding parks, the City of Sanibel's Pond Apple Trail and location of possible trail through the Bailey property.

More than a month has passed since the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) announced a $5.3 million fundraising campaign to purchase the 28.3-acre Bailey Family Homestead on Periwinkle Way.

In the past two weeks, SCCF sent out an informational mailer describing the entire scope of the project to every postal address on the island as part of the foundation’s most aggressive fundraising campaign in their more than 40-year history.

And, since the Oct. 28 announcement, islanders have responded very positively towards the recently-introduced mission.

“I hope we receive gifts of all sizes from the widest possible group of islanders. Like earlier land campaigns, though, I think we’ll need a few very major gifts to make this happen,” said campaign coordinator Cheryl Giattini. “We’re hoping to find the angels we can honor with naming opportunities.”

According to Giattini, donations towards SCCF’s campaign to acquire the Bailey Family Homestead, rehabilitate the existing structure, restore the wildlife habitat and continue their conservation work is approaching the $1 million mark.

“We’re very encouraged by the response so far,” added Erick Lindblad, SCCF Executive Director. “People really just received the material in the mail. I still get inquiries every day asking us what the yellow ropes are for.”

The proposed land acquisition would preserve more than 1,000 feet of vegetation along Periwinkle Way near Donax Street, keeping the natural ambiance of this section of Sanibel’s primary roadway. Behind the screen of trees lining Periwinkle Way, there are the Bailey buildings and a wide open field once farmed by the family. Behind that, the property extends into 15.22 acres of upland habitat, vital to bobcats, gopher tortoises, marsh rabbits and resident and migratory songbirds. The remaining acreage is composed almost entirely of freshwater interior wetlands, so important for wading birds and other wildlife.

Every parcel in SCCF’s 43-year history of land acquisition has expanded the corridor of wildlife habitat running down the center of Sanibel, and the Bailey property falls squarely within that tradition.

“I’ve learned a great deal reading the background discussion in Section 3.2.4 of the Sanibel Plan. It talks about how successful adaptions by past generations can serve as beacons to guide present and future generations in adapting to the environment. It specifically sites the Bailey House (1896) as an example of successful adaptation, calling it an irreplaceable resource which should be maintained for future residents and visitors,” said Giattini. “It would be great to make that vision a reality.”

The $5.3 million fundraising campaign has four main components:

• Acquisition of the 28.3-acre Bailey Homestead for $4 million.

• Restoration of the Bailey Family Home as a place to tell the Bailey family history and as a Center for Conservation History. The initial restoration costs, included in this campaign, total $225,000, not including the sweat equity of SCCF’s volunteer carpenters, the Hammerheads.

• Wildlife Habitat Restoration. Consistent with earlier land acquisitions, SCCF needs to raise an additional 10 percent, or $400,000, to support the initial restoration and ongoing management of the land in perpetuity.

• SCCF’s conservation work for the islands. The last component supports the quality work being done in all program areas and addresses SCCF’s operating expenses, specifically those not covered by grant monies and other income generated by SCCF staff. To balance the annual operating budget, $675,000 must be raised as part of this campaign.

For both wildlife and people visiting the property, the land contiguous to the Bailey property also makes it very desirable. Restoring the Bailey acreage allows for an extended corridor for wildlife across adjacent lands already preserved by SCCF and the City of Sanibel. Closer to the buildings on the Periwinkle side of the property, a trail could be created.

“It would be possible for people to start at Roadside City Park to the west of the Bailey property and travel due east through conserved lands,” an SCCF press release stated. “It could connect to the City’s Pond Apple Trail, allowing off-road travel all the way to the Chamber of Commerce parking lot and the causeway islands.”

Once funds are raised to purchase the property, work will continue to optimize the land for wildlife habitat, including the removal of invasive non-native plants (except for some of the “historic” trees on the site) and re-vegetation with native species.

“I’m hopeful that the entire community will support this effort,” said Lindblad.

In addition, SCCF’s Wildlife Habitat Management staff will do pre- and post-restoration studies to track the increased use of the habitat by wildlife. They will also reach out to the city to plan for a trail to be enjoyed by residents and visitors without encroaching on the critters living within the parcel.

If you would like to learn more about the campaign, contact SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad by calling 472-2329 or sending an e-mail to elindblad@sccf.org. You may also contact campaign coordinator Cheryl Giattini by phone at 395-2768 or via e-mail at cgiattini@attglobal.net. Donations may also be made by visiting www.sccf.org, where additional information about the campaign is available.