A new Conservation 20/20 preserve between Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres has opened. Wild Turkey Strand Preserve, a 3,000-plus-acre site, sits along State Road 82 west of the Hendry County line, providing wildlife habitat as well as offering Lee County's nature enthusiasts, photographers and picnickers a historic Florida oasis.
The preserve sits atop portions of the former Buckingham Army Airfield, the state's largest airfield training base during World War II (1942-1945). In October, the preserve will feature historic interpretative panels of the field's use during WWII where gunnery training took place.
Other amenities include a picnic area and a 1.8-mile nature trail, where wildlife lovers may be able catch glimpses of deer, birds and panthers. Two wetland observation decks also exist on site. Primitive portions of the nature trail are seasonally wet, so visitors should wear appropriate shoes.
The site is Lee County's first large-scale application of Flexi-Pave, a pavement made up of shredded tires and stone. Flexi-Pave's porous surface allows rainfall to percolate through it, forming good bacteria that filter clean water into the groundwater table. This is significant because one of Wild Turkey Strand Preserve's purposes is groundwater recharge. The county welcomes builders interested in sustainable products to visit the preserve.
Wild Turkey Strand Preserve's acquisition process happened from 2001 to 2008 and cost $18 million. Conservation 20/20 management funds were supplemented by grants from the Florida Communities Trust, the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. The public facilities and other amenities were purchased and built using $1 million from the Florida Communities Trust grant.
Lee County voters in 1996 approved Conservation 20/20, a program designed to acquire properties of environmental significance, restore those lands to their natural state and condition, manage them in an environmentally acceptable manner and provide public recreational opportunities that are compatible with protecting the natural resources.
The program has protected nearly 25,000 acres for future generations to enjoy. Wild Turkey Strand Preserve comprises 3,137 acres and is open sunrise to sunset daily at 11901 Rod & Gun Club Road, Fort Myers, FL 33913.
Learn more about the program and its preserves by visiting www.conservation2020.org and www.facebook.com/LeeCountyFlConservation2020. Conservation 20/20 sites are part of the array of offerings from Lee County Parks & Recreation. Visit www.leeparks.org to learn more.