Periwinkle Preserve Trail to Open Soon
The SCCF Periwinkle Preserve trail is getting close to reopening after extensive clean-up efforts post Hurricane Ian. This heavily forested preserve experienced heavy damage as storm surge killed many of the tropical hardwood trees.
“The upcoming rainy season will show us what vegetation will come back on its own and what we will want to replant,” said Chris Lechowicz, director of Wildlife & Habitat Management Program (WHMP).
SCCF Land Conservation Steward Victor Young and Field Technician Dustin Lucas, as well as volunteers led by Coastal Watch Director Kealy McNeal have been clearing the preserve of construction debris, as well as dead vegetation.
The preserve has a more open look about it due to the removal of many dead trees.
This 38-acre parcel and the adjacent 15-acre Blue Skies Preserve to the south were acquired through a $2.2 million land campaign in 2001. These two preserves, which were recently combined by the Lee County tax appraiser, were originally called the Periwinkle-Casa Ybel River Preserve or PCRP.
After Hurricane Charley in 2004, the remaining Australian pines (Casuarina exisetifolia) along the border of this parcel and Periwinkle Way were removed. It was then replanted to help beautify the Periwinkle Way corridor in the absence of the long-standing wall of pines.
Trees and shrubs from extreme south Florida and the Keys such as paradise tree (Simarouba glauca), Jamaican dogwood (Piscidea piscipula), and cinnamon bark (Canella winterana) were chosen to line the shared-use path along Periwinkle Way as well as a new 0.6 mile circular trail through the northern section of the property.
“This heavily wooded area was to act as a source of food and shelter for migratory birds on their annual journey,” said Lechowicz.
SCCF conducted very important research on those preserves before restoration began in 2004. A large percentage of those parcels were covered in exotic plants such as Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and Australian pine among other exotic species that made it nearly impenetrable.
SCCF’s WHMP staff cut trails through the preserve and conducted research comparing restored vs. unrestored properties by comparing the diversity and abundance of wildlife species. The research included insects, macro-invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, and small mammals.
“Results clearly showed that dense exotic vegetation negatively affected native wildlife species diversity,” said Lechowicz.