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Calusa Land Trust commences trail head improvements

December 24, 2014
Special to The Eagle ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Calusa Land Trust is striving to provide public friendly nature sites to supplement its traditional emphasis on mangrove wetlands, salt flats and pine uplands on Pine Island. One such project is the Smith/Dewane Gateway in the St. James Creek Preserve.

The original St. James Creek Preserve was acquired in two major steps such that it now consists of some 391 acres of forever preserved wetlands on Pine Island. The St. Jude Nature Trail, 3520 Stabile Road, St. James City, was initially designed as an extension of St. Jude Boulevard for access to proposed (in the late '60s) home sites. The trail provides an easy half-mile nature walk culminating in a boardwalk onto a deck with an overlook of the St. James Creek and a kayak launch. The trail includes a tiki hut and several memorial benches, the latter mostly located at the entrance onto Stabile Road known as the Norm Gowan Trailhead Vista. There are no amenities and parking is limited to the county right-of-way.

The new Smith/Dewane Gateway was conceived with the acquisition of over 300 feet of frontage on Crestwell Road. Since these parcels are contiguous to the existing preserve, it thus allows a new access to the St. Jude Nature Trail. The Pine Island Garden Club and the Matlacha Hookers have pledged funds which should cover most of the cost of construction of a parking area and paved pavilion. However, the exotic removal of tall Australian pines must first occur. After research, the bid for this work was accepted from native John Jones of Blue Heron Environmental. This cost will be paid from CLT general funds; excavation has already commenced.

This now left the trust with the mission of accessing the new gateway to the trail via a pathway to a boardwalk and then onto a bridge over a mangrove ditch (caused by dredging to create the path back in the l960s.)

This would be the most expensive piece of the project's puzzle. A blessing occurred when the family of the late Dennis and Ruth Ward (longtime CLT supporters and avid "bridge" players) pledged the funds necessary to complete this dream.

With exotic removal and land grading complete, engineering specifications must be acquired, then permitting (Lee County and the South Florida Water Management District) and the bidding process before construction may commence.

Once completed the Smith/Dewane Gateway, the Pine Island Garden Club/Matlacha Hookers Pavilion and the Dennis and Ruth Ward Memorial Bridge will provide Pine Islanders with a family opportunity to passively interact with this fragile subtropical island environment which is so special to all of us.

If you wish to contribute to the Calusa Land Trust, mail donations to Calusa Land Trust, P.O. Box 216, Bokeelia, FL 33922.



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