There was a very small turnout for the Monday noon meeting on Buttonwood and Heron Pond Preserves held by Lee County Conservation 20/20 staff. The meeting was held at the North Fort Myers Public Library.
Cathy Olson and Jeff Anderson with Lee County Parks & Recreation and Conservation 20/20 conducted the meeting and welcomed everyone.
"The way we're structured on the 20/20 program is that acquisitions are all done by county land," said Olson, conservation lands manager. "Then once the property has been acquired, it comes over to Parks and Recreation. What we do with the property is we write a Land Management Plan which goes under review. We watch a property for up to a year as it goes through the seasons before we determine the plan and we examine the natural resources, restoration possibilities and public access."
The Buttonwood and Heron Pond preserve boundaries.
She continued, "Sometimes we purchase properties, like this one, that do not have good public access. They may have good public access in the future but not at this time. Right now our legal access to Buttonwood is gained through the mangroves so we would have to destroy natural resources to get the public on the property. This property has natural resource benefits and that's why we purchased it. I would encourage the public to use other lands."
Anderson, the biologist in charge of this preserve, explained what has happened at the site thus far, and what is planned for the site.
"Since the purchase in 2012 we've spent the last year or so doing some field-work, looking the site over and writing our Management Plan," Anderson said.
"The site is infested with several exotic invasive species: Australian pines, melaleuca and Brazilian pepper. These exotic plants will be treated to allow native plants to repopulate these portions of the preserves."
Buttonwood Preserve is 218.8 acres and was purchased in February 2012 at a cost of $772,000 or $3,528 per acre. This included a $20,000 contribution from the Calusa Land Trust and Nature Preserve of Pine Island.
Buttonwood and Heron Pond preserves are located on the south side of Pine Island Road approximately 3/4 mile east from the Stringfellow Road intersection.
The 5.3-acre Heron Pond Preserve was donated to Lee County by the First Baptist Church of St. James City in October 1989.
The Management Plan states that the primary management objectives are "natural community improvements, removal and continued treatment of invasive exotic plants and resource protection. Because funding is currently not available to conduct all of these stewardship activities, tasks will be prioritized in order of importance and ease of accomplishment. If possible, grants and/or monies budgeted to mitigate public infrastructure projects will be used to supplement the operations budget to meet our goals in a timely manner."
The Natural Resource Management Plan includes: Exotic plant control/maintenance, monitor and protect listed species, exotic and feral animal removal, overall protection, boundary sign maintenance, boundary fence installation, change zoning and FLU categories, prevent dumping, volunteers and assist volunteer group(s).
The plan can be viewed online at: www.conservation2020.org/Documents/lsp/Buttonwood.pdf