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SCCF Trail Reinterpretation Project underway

By Staff | Nov 26, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED SCCF Special Projects Manager Justin Proctor is overseeing the Trail Reinterpretation Project.

While its Nature Center is being renovated, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is taking the opportunity to carry out a Trail Reinterpretation Project on the adjacent Erick Lindblad Preserve.

The 212-acre preserve boasts four-plus miles of walking trails that are notorious for their serenity, biodiversity, observation tower and views of the Sanibel River. In September, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera hired Justin Proctor, who has an Master of Science in Natural Resources from Cornell University, as a special projects manager and asked him to oversee the trail project.

“Justin has worked extensively across the Americas as a scientist, educator,and conservationist, and is a great fit for this project,” Orgera said. “These trails are a key early component to SCCF’s history. We are taking the time to really enhance the experience and education they offer.”

Proctor, who moved to Sanibel in 2018, has become attached to the ecological value of the trails.

“What makes this trail network special is how incredibly wild it is,” he said. “As soon as you step out there, you’re in the heart of our island’s best natural landscapes. You can’t help but want to walk along slowly and quietly in anticipation of what wildlife you might find around the next corner. Our goal with this project is to keep that ambiance, but improve the educational impact of the experience.”

Some of the planned improvements include: new, engaging interpretive signage along all of the trails; new, easy-to-interpret maps at major trail junctions, as well as low-impact modifications to the junctions to facilitate smoother navigation; and new structures and upgrades to existing structures that will offer better viewing and connectivity with the wildlife and landscapes.

“While on the one hand we’re thinking hard about innovative ways to engage new generations of trail users, on the other hand we are also interested in keeping the history of these trails alive,” Proctor said. “A highlight of this project has been meticulously reading through older accounts of these trails to see what features were exciting when the trails were first created in the 1970s, and then finding ways to keep those elements alive.”

Island enthusiasts might be familiar with George R. Campbell’s 1978 book, “The Nature of Things on Sanibel,” in which he devotes a chapter to describing the trails, entitled, “A Day in the Life of the SCCF Wetlands Sanctuary.” From detailed descriptions of specific strangler fig trees to precise measurements of tiny sand mounds created by antlions on the forest floor, he does not miss a thing.

“Campbell claimed – and I believe him – to have walked 350 miles on our trails over the course of two years because of his ceaseless fascination with what he’d find out there. I think that’s a great depiction of how easy it is to become enamored with the plant and animal life along these trails, and our hope is that you will share the same feeling when you’re out there,” Proctor said.

Pick up a current map from the kiosk area at the entrance to the trails. The maps are being updated continuously as modifications to the trails are being made. Also visit the website for updates.

Proctor is excited about what is to come.

“We have a lot of really neat ideas that will be materializing over the coming months, and we are very much looking forward to sharing those with our community. Thank you for your patience as we see these projects through to completion,” he said.