Restoration Underway at Lindblad Preserve
SCCF hiking trails are an important part of giving the public opportunities to interact with the nature of Sanibel. All public SCCF hiking trails are currently open, except for those behind the newly remodeled SCCF Headquarters Building on the Erick Lindblad Preserve, which was formerly referred to as the Center Tract.
Most of the trail boardwalks on the Erick Lindblad Preserve were destroyed by Hurricane Ian and are currently being removed by contractors. This is the first step in getting this trail system reopened.
The SCCF Observation Tower was constructed in 1977 to coincide with the opening of the SCCF Nature Center/Administration building at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Rd.
The tower was built along the Sanibel River, in a natural s-curve of that waterbody to allow the public to observe the natural landscape and wildlife while on the hiking trails.
“Unfortunately, this structure was severely compromised during the hurricane and could not be salvaged and is currently being removed as well, after its 45-year tenure as one of the highlights of this trail system,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz.
Wildlife Habitat Management staff have been clearing and widening the trails while contractors remove the damaged wooden structures. Many natural areas look very different due to the loss of hardwood vegetation from the storm surge.
A significant quantity of mature buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) along the river has perished near the location of the tower and was cut back by city contractors to keep the river channel open.
“As a result, the river looks much larger, and the tree canopy is less dense, at least temporarily as regrowth is underway,” said Lechowicz.
The trail system will likely be altered slightly due to changes from the hurricane and the absence of the observation tower. New boardwalks, educational and directional signage, and some new amenities will eventually be installed.