Periwinkle Wetlands Restoration Begins Next Week

02 Jun 2021

 
 
Next week, SCCF will begin the preliminary steps of a multi-phase restoration project on the newly acquired Periwinkle Wetlands Preserve. 
 
“We are grateful that we were able to acquire these key 12-plus acres and we ask the public to please understand that we must clear the land of exotics before we can restore it,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. “Since it’s right on Perwinkle Way and highly visible, we want to explain the process so a return to a diverse, natural habitat is well understood.”
 
Land Clearing Phase
 
Over the next several months, contractors will be conducting the land clearing phase, which will include the removal and eradication of dense stands of large, invasive exotic trees. The work will be overseen by SCCF Habitat Management staff and vegetation debris will be mulched on-site. 
 
In addition to the tree removal, SCCF staff will be conducting selective herbicide treatments to manage invasive exotic vines, groundcovers, and grasses. Habitat Management also will begin to revegetate many areas throughout the property and construct hiking trails.
 
SCCF wants island residents and passersby to understand what is happening at the site as it begins to unfold. 
 
“As the initial land clearing portion progresses, the conversion from densely vegetated to nearly barren land can often seem destructive and a shock to the senses. However, as the planting stage begins to take root, the landscape rapidly transitions back to a diverse, natural habitat,” explained Land Conservation Steward Victor Young.
 
Removing exotic plants — which lack any native predators or pests to keep them in check — is key to successful restoration. 
 
“Invasive species can become dominant, rapidly displacing native plant communities and resulting in the loss of key habitats for migratory and resident bird populations as well as other animal species found throughout Sanibel Island,” Young said. Restoring land to its historic natural state reinforces SCCF’s rich history of conservation and its core mission “to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.”
 
Young said the timing of the restoration was planned around nature itself, and a firm completion date has not been established. 
 
“Restoration projects often take place over an extended period and many factors contribute to the time it takes to complete a project,” he said. “As summer approaches, thunderstorms, seasonal flooding, and hurricanes can delay portions of the restoration.”
Restoration/Improvement Phase
 
Following the initial preserve restoration, improvements will be added to the approximately two acres fronting Periwinkle Way between Purdy and Martha’s Lanes. These improvements will be open to the public, while the majority of the preserve acreage will be dedicated for exclusive use as wildlife habitat.
 
“The intentional reimagining of this space will connect visitors to nature and celebrate our shared and historic role in protecting and nurturing Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems,” said Orgera.
 
After the exotics are removed, the community space will be replanted with thriving native landscaping. Inviting and inspiring, it will feature a 1,100-foot loop walking/biking trail connected to the shared-use path. The trail will take bikers and walkers through a welcome plaza with a water bottle-filling station and interpretive panels. 
 
A lush demonstration marsh with wetlands features will include water-quality education panels. There will be interpretative gardens with seasonal blooms and a sculpture garden to encourage thoughtful reflection on the importance of land, water, and wildlife. 
 
Throughout the restoration process, SCCF Habitat Management staff will routinely conduct inspections for the reintroduction of invasive, exotic species to ensure it is a diverse, healthy ecosystem. 
 
“The Periwinkle Wetlands Preserve restoration project is essentially revitalizing characteristics of Sanibel’s historic ecosystems,” Orgera said, “while inviting in the public to learn more about Sanibel’s environment and to contemplate its beauty.”