Speakers extol merits of ‘Trails & Tales’ program
Of all of its many unique offerings and amenities, Sanibel and Captiva is home to five distinctive organizations which capture the essence of the nature-rich and environmentally sensitive islands.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), the Bailey-Mathews Shell Museum and the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village have formed a coalition called “Trails & Tales.”
“This alliance embraces the island’s rich preservation history and is dedicated to sharing this powerful message with visitors from around the world,” the organization’s website reads, in part.
On Thursday, representatives from each of the five entities delivered a PowerPoint program at ‘Tween Waters Inn explaining the mission of “Trails & Tales,” which program host Nancy MacPhee of the Lee County Convention and Visitor Bureau explained is dedicated to preserving the natural habitat and providing visitors with the opportunity to experience the island’s ambience, while at the same time gaining a greater appreciation for wildlife.
Becky Wolff, a ranger at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, noted that the preserve welcomes more than 620,000 visitors each year. She gave a brief history of the refuge and its founder, editorial cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling, who visited ‘Tween Waters for 20 years before building his own home on Captiva. Also one of the country’s most recognized conservationists, Darling helped establish the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945. It was renamed for “Ding” following his passing.
Wolff also shared her favorite Native American proverb: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
Steve Greenstein, executive director at CROW, shared a couple of success stories about injured wildlife rehabilitated at the clinic before being released again. He explained how a visit to their Healing Winds Visitor Education Center offers “a glimpse of life through the eyes of our patients.”
Greenstein showed several slides depicting a river otter, found abandoned near the Orange River in eastern Lee County, brought in as a two-week-old newborn and released as a healthy, young animal in the same location it had been found.
Dr. Jose Leal of the Bailey-Mathews Shell Museum talked about the facility’s newest and most popular exhibits. He and his staff are dedicated to shell and mollusk education, environmental awareness and the promotion of collection-based research. Every fourth grader in the Lee County School District visits the museum each year, which was opened to the public in 1995.
Alex Werner, president of the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, spoke about the Dunlop Road facility founded to preserve and share the history of Sanibel. He gave a brief history of the island, opened for homesteading in 1885, which was once one of the most successful farming communities in the southern United States.
Werner explained that it wasn’t until the arrival of New York developer Hugo Lindgren in the 1960s that the island’s population “exploded,” from approximately 90 full-time residents between 1927 and the late 1950s.
SCCF’s Kristie Anders talked about the foundation’s mission to keep much of Sanibel preserved and protected from overdevelopment. She shared a story about a 167-acre parcel, called Frannie’s Preserve, which was named by an anonymous donor whose wife had long been a champion for setting aside land for wildlife.
Together, these “Trails & Tails” partners hope to spread the word about their organizations to both area residents and out-of-town visitors.
“Please, help us be our islands’ keepers and honor the past,” added Anders. “What we do would be impossible without our volunteers. Part of the spirit of these islands is enjoying the preservation of nature and working hard to protect it.”
“Trails & Tales” is presented on the first Wednesday of every month at 9:15 a.m. in the Education Center at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, located at 1 Wildlife Drive. Admission is free but space is limited for this 45-minute presentation.
For additional information, visit www.sanibeltrailsandtales.org.