After a four year wait, Pine Island's Galt Preserve is finally receiving an extreme make-over. Renovations include ex-panding the car and RV parking facilities; adding restrooms, a new pavilion, canoe and kayak drop-off and pick-up locations; new and improved pedestrian trails; picnic areas; and even a wildlife observation area.
Galt Preserve is a 265-acre nature preserve located about 7 miles south of Pine Island Center on Stringfellow Road slightly north of York Road. The preserve consists of three separate Conservation 20/20 acquisitions; two parcels in 2002 and a third purchase in 2007. The total purchase price was $4.415 million.
The initial acquisition came from the Galt Island Avenue Property Rights Group, a homeowners association on Galt Island Avenue.
The Galt Preserve will soon receive a long-awaited makeover.
"The builder originally planned to build houses on the property that is the Galt Preserve today," islander Phil Buchanan said. "But we brokered a deal where the land was purchased with funds from the homeowners and the Calusa Land Trust. That was the start of the preserve."
Recent walks through the preserve proved challenging. Walkways were not recently mowed and several areas were under water. However, once these restoration projects are completed, amenities will be installed making it more user friendly for hiking, bird watching, photography and fishing. All amenities will be built with a grant from the Florida Communi-ties Trust.
This newest improvement began several years ago with a plan to remove invasive plant species.
"More than half of the preserve was impacted by melaleuca, acacia and Brazilian pepper trees," said land manager Cathy Olson. "We removed these invasive species both by mechanical means and herbicides."
Inside the preserve, visitors will find 12 plant communities that include mangrove swamps and mesic flatwoods. The preserve is also home to a variety of animal species including brown pelicans, frigate birds, great egrets, snowy egrets, little blue herons, tricolored herons, reddish egrets, black-crowned night herons, osprey, short tailed hawks, hairy woodpeckers, American alligators and bald eagles.
Recently a pair of bald eagles built a nest on the preserve since invasive plant and tree species were removed.
The preserve is bordered by a Lee County Mosquito Control District helicopter pad along with Stringfellow, Galt Island and York Road to the east and south, a palm nursery to the north, and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.
At this time the preserve is "under construction" and closed to the general public.
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has approved the restoration project and Casey Construction has hired local contractor, HONC Industries, to do the site work.
Work should be completed in September 2014.
Galt Preserve is located at 3661 Stringfellow Road, St. James City.