A Look Back and Look Ahead: Sanibel 2011 and 2012
According to Karen Nelson of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), 2011 was made especially remarkable due to the “extraordinary support of islanders” who helped the organization secure the 28.3-acres of land fronting Periwinkle Way known as the Bailey Homestead Preserve. SCCF staff and volunteers are presently hard at work at the Bailey Homestead, restoring the house and wildlife habitat, as well as the Shipley Trail which, when complete, will connect the City’s Pond Apple Trail to Roadside City Park. They hope to have the Preserve open to the public in a year.
In looking further ahead into 2012, SCCF’s marine laboratory will be undertaking research which includes environmental monitoring and facilitating restoration projects imperative to the health of area waters. Among these initiatives is seagrass study and restoration, Clam Bayou oyster reef and mangrove restoration, scallop research and restoration, and water quality/seagrass monitoring within the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Refuge.
In terms of managing wildlife habitats, SCCF will be working on the Foundation’s preserved lands as well as public lands through a partnership with the City of Sanibel and the J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge. Nelson says the goal is to make these lands as productive as possible for wildlife, through projects that include the sea turtle and shorebird nest monitoring programs. They will additionally be studying bobcats, gopher tortoises, freshwater fish and reptiles, eagles, and managing habitat quality through a series of prescribed burns and land management operations.
The fertile minds at SCCF are also striving to increase the islands’ capacity for native plants and wildlife (especially in the developed parts of the islands) through landscaping for wildlife programs, or sales of native plants, and by offering landscaping services and education.
Look for SCCF to be teaching and inspiring all on Sanibel to be good stewards of the islands through programs about the islands’ history, on-water education cruises and “living with wildlife” programs about gators, sea turtles, coyotes, black bears otters, owls and other critters.
The coming year will also be important in terms of shaping Natural Resource Policies; and in this area, Nelson says what SCCF learns from their marine Lab, wildlife habitat management and nursery projects will be communicated in meetings with City Council, County commissioners, regulatory agencies and legislators. Nelson says the SCCF can be expected to represent area concerns and request actions that ultimately help improve statutes, rules and enforcement aims to better protect the environment that supports all physically and economically.
Last year also saw the culmination of many projects at the J.N. Ding Darling National Refuge. Among them, enhancements made to the Calusa Shell Mound Trail and reopening of the Buck Key Paddling Trail.
Their education center was also complemented with a historic Duck Decoy Exhibit courtesy of the artistic prowess of Jim Sprankle – nothing to quack at.
They additionally created their first endowed named scholarship by establishing the Jane Werner Environmental Scholarship.
The Refuge was further distinguished as the first in America to open an interactive iNature Trail using QR Code technology, heavy science for a nature setting.Some 800,000 visitors came to the Refuge in 2011, and 2012 is expected to be a busy year too.Plans call for the opening of a new exhibit touting the marvels of manatees. They additionally anticipate opening of a new crocodile exhibit. The Children’s Education Boardwalk connecting the Refuge with the Sanibel School is also scheduled to open in 2012.
Other plans call for the launch of a new “Ding” Darling Conservation Awards Program, which will be offered at schools throughout the district.
Another fun first will be found in a special Tarpon Tournament sponsored through a partnership with Doc Ford’s. The event will ultimately help support ongoing activities at The Refuge.