Periwinkle Wetlands restoration project begins
This week, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will begin the preliminary steps of a multi-phase restoration project on the newly acquired Periwinkle Wetlands Preserve, officials reported.
“We are grateful that we were able to acquire these key 12-plus acres and we ask the public to please understand that we must clear the land of exotics before we can restore it,” Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera said. “Since it’s right on Perwinkle Way and highly visible, we want to explain the process so a return to a diverse natural habitat is well understood.”
LAND CLEARING PHASE
Over the next several months, contractors will conduct the land clearing phase, which will include the removal and eradication of dense stands of large, invasive exotic trees. The work will be overseen by SCCF Habitat Management staff and vegetation debris will be mulched onsite.
In addition to the tree removal, staff will conduct selective herbicide treatments to manage invasive exotic vines, groundcovers and grasses. Habitat Management also will begin to revegetate many areas throughout the property and construct hiking trails.
“As the initial land clearing portion progresses, the conversion from densely vegetated to nearly barren land can often seem destructive and a shock to the senses,” Land Conservation Steward Victor Young said. “However, as the planting stage begins to take root, the landscape rapidly transitions back to a diverse natural habitat.”
Removing exotic plants — which lack any native predators or pests to keep them in check — is key to successful restoration.
“Invasive species can become dominant, rapidly displacing native plant communities and resulting in the loss of key habitats for migratory and resident bird populations, as well as other animal species found throughout Sanibel,” he said.
The timing of the restoration was planned around nature, and a firm completion date has not been established.
“Restoration projects often take place over an extended period and many factors contribute to the time it takes to complete a project,” Young said. “As summer approaches, thunderstorms, seasonal flooding and hurricanes can delay portions of the restoration.
Following the initial restoration, improvements will be added to the approximately two acres fronting Periwinkle Way between Purdy and Martha’s lanes. The improvements will be open to the public, while the majority of the preserve acreage will be dedicated for exclusive use as wildlife habitat.
“The intentional reimagining of this space will connect visitors to nature and celebrate our shared and historic role in protecting and nurturing Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems,” Orgera said.
The community space will be replanted with native landscaping. It will feature a 1,100-foot loop walking-biking trail connected to the shared use path. The trail will take bikers and walkers through a welcome plaza with a water bottle-filling station and interpretive panels. A demonstration marsh with wetlands features will include water-quality education panels, and there will be interpretative gardens with seasonal blooms and a sculpture garden.
Throughout the restoration process, SCCF Habitat Management staff will routinely conduct inspections for the reintroduction of invasive,exotic species to ensure it is a diverse healthy ecosystem.
“The Periwinkle Wetlands Preserve restoration project is essentially revitalizing characteristics of Sanibel’s historic ecosystems — while inviting in the public to learn more about Sanibel’s environment and to contemplate its beauty,” Orgera said.