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Volunteers plant 164 mangroves along Coral Pointe Canal

By Staff | Jul 21, 2020

The healing process for mangroves damaged in an area of Coral Pointe Canal in Cape Coral began Saturday as more than 40 volunteers turned out to plant 164 mangrove plants in the affected area.

Mangroves that were damaged one year ago due to a botched maintenance work project by the city of Cape Coral have now been replaced with younglings thanks to a partnership with the city and local non-profit group Keep Lee County Beautiful, along with volunteers from the Cape Coral group “Citizens for the Preservation of 4 Mile Cove.”

Over around two hours, volunteers were ferried over on three boats from their launch site to the restoration location. KLCB provided all of the necessary equipment for volunteers, who dug about a foot into the soft ground, placed the plant and secured it with dirt. Volunteers were spread out in groups on opposite ends of the shoreline working inward.

“It went every well on Saturday,” said Joe Cruz, a resident and member of the Cape Coral preservation group. “We had a nice turnout of volunteers.”

Cruz lives right along the affected area, seeing the damage every day. He was happy to be able to have a hands-on part in getting the prospective 20/20 Conservation property back to its previous condition.

“It was a nice experience to be involved and take part in the replanting,” Cruz said. “We’ve been working on this for over a year to try and get this (land) preserved and have it restored. To be a part of it was definitely rewarding. We hope to see some growth.”

Cruz said the Florida Depart-ment of Environmental Protection said these young plants should be able to grow around 1.5 feet per year.

“Basically that means, hopefully, in within three years I’ll no longer see the top of the berm,” Cruz said. “But it’s still going to be 8 to 10 years before it’s anywhere near what it once was, but it’s better than nothing and better than the destruction that was there.”

This is the last box on a checklist mandated by FDEP on what the city needed to do to remedy its July 2019 maintenance work that’s purpose, according to the city, was the removal of invasive exotic vegetation from the canal bank which impeded draining and restricted navigation. In the process, according to FDEP, workers damaged mangroves, which are protected in Florida.

The city began work along the canal on May 26. Their duties to FDEP involved mobilizing equipment to the project site, the removal of invasive species (Australian pines), bank reshaping, berm building, hydroseeding and mangrove planting. The city stated that an agreement between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the city allows up to 120 days for remediation work to be completed. In July 2019, the city received a warning letter from the FDEP after protected mangroves were removed during the canal maintenance project.

“It was a safe, friendly (experience),” said Cape Coral Senior Public Works Manager Michael Ilczyszyn. “Everybody was excited to restore the mangroves and restore the environment and bring it back in a better condition than it was.”

Cruz and Ilczyszyn spoke Tuesday to discuss additional plantings in the area. Cruz said his interest is in restoring (or at least providing) a habitat for scrub jays and in addition, if possible, depending on the extent that the city is willing to go, fast-growing trees that would serve as perches for the ospreys, hawks and other birds that hunt along the shoreline. Ilczyszyn stated that he would speak with the city’s Environmental Resources Division for advice and recommendations on what could be planted along the shoreline.

Ilczyszyn also talked of other plans for the area going forward.

“What we’re looking into is when Lee County hopefully purchases the property, doing another event and maybe even doing more planting there — some of the members of Keep Lee County Beautiful had talked about trying to do several hundreds of planting,” Ilczyszyn said. “We’re going to meet with Mr. Cruz sometime this week and talk about maybe trying to put in some plants that were not required in the agreement to help the upland area as well.”

Ilczyszyn said the city is also partnering with KLCB on a cleanup project at Crystal Lake in the immediate future.

— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj