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Captiva revives its tree population

By Staff | Sep 17, 2011

When Hurricane Charley hit the northern tip of Captiva in 2004, it was at its peak intensity of 150 miles per hour. The tiny barrier island lost most of its massive Australian pines that could not withstand the Atlantic storm. The beautiful green canopy with all of its wonderful shade was gone with the wind.

To help reforest Captiva Island, the Captiva Community Panel joined forces with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Native Plant Nursery and the Division of Forestry on a match grant. Through the $125,000 grant, homeowners bought trees appropriate for their property and received 75 percent off retail value. The planting began in 2006 and ended two years later with 1,572 trees in 31 different species placed in the ground on 50 different properties.

“Homeowners would come to us for advice and we encouraged everyone to plant the trees near the roadway for better shade,” said Evans.

Earlier this year, the CCP completed a second tree planting project on the island with more than 100 trees planted on public lands and rights-of-way at no cost to islanders. It was achieved through a $17,200 no-match urban and community forestry grant, also from the Florida Division of Forestry.

Native species were planted at Turner Beach, along Andy Rosse Lane and in selected locations on Captiva Drive. This work was done by the Native Plant Nursery and overseen by the state forestry agency and various county agencies. Species were selected based on their suitability to the planting site, of particular concern for those locations nearer to the gulf.

“Both projects had the same goal,” noted Evans, which was to reforest Captiva Island.

Property owners adjacent to the prospective planting sites were consulted and trees were only planted in areas were owners concurred.

“Work was delayed until as late in the spring as possible under the grant’s deadlines to accommodate the area’s extra dry conditions and in hopes that the start of the rainy season would lessen the need for independent irrigation,” noted Evans. “The trees were planted smaller in size compared to the first project to give them a healthier, longer life.”

While a few of the new plants struggled as drought conditions persisted, most have recovered now the rainy season has commenced and have passed inspection conducted by the state.

“The support of key island property owners, in conjunction with the flexibility of the Native Plant Nursery, made this project possible,” said panel administrator Ken Gooderham. “Particularly along Andy Rosse Lane, the property owners pulled together to make this happen very quickly, hopefully creating a unique asset for the community.”

The CCP undertook two tree planting projects following the state reforestation effort launched after the 2004 hurricane season to restore tree canopies across the state.

“It has been an outstanding team effort, one we hope will pay dividends for Captiva in the years to come,” said Gooderham.