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Portion of Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve to close Monday

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jul 14, 2021

Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve is temporarily closed o improve wildlife habitat by clearing undergrowth. Photo by Jason Boeckman, Lee County Conservation 20/20

Portions of Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve East, 10130 Bayshore Road, North Fort Myers, will close for about a week starting Monday, July 19, to improve wildlife habitat by clearing undergrowth.

The project will include the palmetto uplands around Fetterbush Trail and a portion of Sweetbay Trail. The entire trail will not be closed, just the portions that run through those areas.

There also will be some areas near Bayshore Road that don’t have a trail going through it that will be worked on.

Lee Waller, a Conservation 20/20 coordinator, said the upland work is done every decade or so to improve the habitat for the gopher tortoises and make the area safer from the threat of fires.

“The vegetation gets so tall and, effectively, it chokes out room for the animals to roam around in, specifically the tortoises,” Waller said.

Clearing undergrowth is an important land management practice used to improve the native plant communities and, therefore, wildlife habitat. It is especially important for the gopher tortoises on the site and it helps reduce the site’s “fuel load” for improved safety should a wildfire occur.

They would usually burn these sections. However, there are some complexities to burning and instead, this go-around they will bring in a roller chopper to cut the brush out.

“It doesn’t remove the underbrush, it rolls over the brush and cuts it into small lengths, so it will bring the palmetto within a foot of the ground,” Waller said. “It will help to prevent fires from sparking up, but it’s primarily for the wildlife.”

Waller said they waited until now to do this since there is plenty of groundwater and the plants will come back quickly.

The areas will reopen once the work is complete, which Waller said is expected to take about a week, but could be finished sooner if everything aligns just right, Waller said.

“It might look scary, but we’re doing it for the plant and wildlife community,” Waller said.

The Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve East is at 10130 Bayshore Road, North Fort Myers.