Restoration Unfolds at the Puschel and Gretchen C. Valade Preserves
SCCF has two restoration projects occurring simultaneously. Exotic plant clearing at the Puschel Preserve is in full gear and contractors are more than half-way through the property. Meanwhile, Australian pines (Casuarina equisetifolia) along Sanibel-Captiva Road that were over-hanging the shared-use path have been removed as part of the Gretchen C. Valade Preserve restoration project.
Work on the Puschel Preserve is in high gear as contractors continue to push south through some of the densest exotic vegetation on the property. The piles of exotic vegetation are growing and expanding as contractors cut up large trees and transport the debris off-site. They are now passed the half-way mark on the eastern part of the property as they make their way toward the Sanibel River. At this point, SCCF’s Wildlife & Habitat Management staff can assess the landscape and design the replanting of the area with native vegetation. After the area is planted and native vegetation begins to regrow, wildlife will quickly take advantage of the natural open landscape that has been void for decades, especially during and after the wet season. The natural wetlands, as you approach the Sanibel River, will attract many native species due to sun penetration. Wading birds will take advantage of these open wetlands, especially during the dry season.
The Gretchen C. Valade Preserve, located on Pine Avenue on the far west end of the island, is 2.2 acres and a recent acquisition (2021). Restoration has started with the large Australian pines along Sanibel-Captiva Road. Next comes the removal of exotics along a narrow strip behind homes. The final removal will take place in the wooded area across from Coconut Road, where the primary exotics are Phoenix palms (Phoenix reclinata), mothers-in-law tongue (Sansevieria hyacinthoides), and young Australian pines. Native vegetation trees and shrubs will be planted in areas along Sanibel-Captiva Road to fill in gaps. The open area to the west will also be filled in with various native groundcover and vegetation to enhance gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) forage in that area. The exotic vegetation in this area is not as dense as others, so contractor work will be completed quickly.
The exotic plant removal phase of these restorations is nearing the finish line. If we don’t get too much unseasonal rain, this phase of restoration should be completed this month. Ideally, plants are planted in the ground relatively close to the beginning of rainy season to take advantage of the water to help keep the plants hydrated.