|2/9/2021 3:04:00 PM|
Score One For The Environment
|Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony are (left to right:) Doug Izzo (Chamber Director,) Jim Cooper (LBC President,) Buffy Crampton (LBC Board Member,) Malcolm Collingwood (LBC Treasurer,) Eva Furner (holding scissors, LBC Board Member & LBC Project Coordinator) Irene Slattery (LBC vice-president,) Lucia Schatteleyn LBC Volunteer Coordinator,) Brian Armstrong (SW Florida Water Management District,) Bill Truex (county commissioner,) John McCurley (LBC 2nd Vice President,) and Brian Faro (Chamber president.) Photo by Len Tatko.|
Members of the Lemon Bay Conservancy pose for a group photo.
by Chris CameronWhat a wonderful way to celebrate a 50th anniversary! Members of the Lemon Bay Conservancy (LBC,) Chamber of Commerce representatives, government agency officials and invited guests gathered on January 25 for the grand opening of the Lemon Creek Wildflower Preserve Habitat Restoration Project. The property on Gasparilla Pines Blvd, most recently known as Wildflower Preserve, was acquired by LBC in 2010. Home to the Wildflower Golf Course from 1971 to 2006, it was overgrown with Brazilian pepper and other invasive species. The storm water runoff from four ponds making its way into Lemon Bay were full of nutrients that were detrimental to the health of the bay.
The mission statement for Lemon Bay Conservancy is “To forever protect and preserve the natural features of Lemon Bay, Charlotte Harbor, their surrounding waters and uplands, and vital fish and wildlife habitat, through property preservation, environmental education and advocacy for sustainable land and water conservation policies and practices.” LBC’s goal for the newly created Wildflower Preserve was to incorporate this vision into that piece of property.
This project was an undertaking of Herculean size. The invasive flora needed to be removed. More than 8,000 new native upland trees, shrubs and grasses were planted. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were consulted for direction on improving the water quality and provided pro bono consultations. Studies found that the ponds needed to be expanded and interconnected with nutrients filtered before the water flowed into Lemon Creek on its way to Lemon Bay.
With grants from SWFWMD and NOAA along with the contributions from LBC members and the public, the project was undertaken. More than 60,000 wetland plants were installed that enable the water to be filtered, thus reducing the storm water nutrients reaching Lemon Bay. Backwater creeks such as Lemon Creek are nurseries for juvenile species such as tarpon and snook. The expanded estuarine wetlands and ponds of Lemon Creek provide the environment needed for these young fish to thrive so fishing can continue as a recreational sport in Florida. LBC also conducts juvenile tarpon research here in consultation with Florida Fish and Wildlife and assisted by students in Lemon Bay High School STEM program. Also, shorebirds and other birds now have a protected location to call home. Bluffs were built to provide wonderful observation points for birders. There is a great blue heron nest on the property; how appropriate as that bird is the logo symbol for LBC.
The property of about 80 acres now has an improved ten acres of wetlands and 12 acres of new wetlands. Three miles of trails have been created for visitors to explore the flora and fauna of the preserve. A new bridge connects the trail between the ponds. There is also a butterfly habitat using native plants to delight butterfly lovers and offer plant suggestions for creating your own butterfly garden. The opportunity to view birds and wildlife in their natural habitat of wetlands and upland coastal plains will only increase as the area continues to revitalize. The generous contributions in both funds and volunteer hours of Lemon Bay Conservancy members, in addition to the grants, made this restoration possible. Kudos to this wonderful group!
Though now only accessible to LBC members, there will be open houses and trail walks for the public in the future. Special group walks may be scheduled by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 830-8922. The preserve is located at 3120 Gasparilla Pines Blvd, off Placida Road.
For 2021, LBC needs to raise $90,000 to continue enhancing the preserve with additional new plantings, maintain invasive plant control and for payment of $12,000 in county non-ad valorem taxes. Individual LBC membership is only $35 yearly with household memberships begining at $50. With that membership you are a part of their commitment to save land, educate the public about environmental topics and environmental issues advocacy. Past projects include roles in the creation of Blind Pass Park, Lemon Bay Park, Indian Mound Park and Cedar Point Park. Land is being developed so quickly in Florida that natural habitats are shrinking rapidly and there is great urgency in saving the remaining parcels. For anyone who wants to see the natural beauty of area waters, land preservation, wildlife and fishing opportunities continue for their children and grandchildren to enjoy, please consider joining and supporting Lemon Bay Conservancy. Visit www.lemonbayconservancy.org to learn more.
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