This summer we completed the restoration of the Land Conservancy’s Tract C property. Tract C is a very special 5.7-acre site on Boca Grande; one of the few places on the island where there are intact remnants of a rare coastal native plant community called the tropical hardwood hammock.
Historically, this property was a dredged materials disposal site for the dredging of Boca Grande Bayou. The dredging spoil proved to be a good medium for the growth of invasive and exotic Australian pine and Brazilian pepper.
When Hurricane Charley blew through in 2004 most of the Australian pines on Tract C were blown over. Afterwards, any remaining Australian pines were cut down by chainsaw and allowed to fall in place, where they remained. In the years between 2005 and 2010 the balance of the existing invasive exotic trees and plants on the site were killed in place with an approved herbicide. The dominant plant killed with the herbicide was Brazilian pepper.
In May of 2010, we began the work of grinding dead tree debris and preparing for future planting. The ground wood chips would be used as mulch. Forestry Resources Ecological Inc. was contracted to use chainsaws and a mulching mower head to grind dead vegetation to prevent sprouting of exotics on the site. This work was carefully done to prevent damage to valuable existing native vegetation. Once completed, the site was ready for the restoration planned for 2011.
In September of this year, Rick Joyce, a certified arborist with whom the GICIA has a long history of collaboration, and Mark Shevitski of Gulf to Bay Landscaping Services, worked together to plan and implement the restoration of Tract C.
The purpose of the project is to restore Tract C to its natural state, which was a tropical hardwood hammock. A wide variety of native trees, grasses, and shrubs were planted, along with numerous types of threatened and endangered species native to Boca Grande. This restoration is very similar to the Hardwood Hammock project (located between 40th and 45th streets) completed in 1999.
Because of the community’s enthusiastic acceptance of the Bike Path Safety Detail, first implemented last spring, and the many positive comments received from residents, visitors, and the sheriff’s department, this program will be in place again for Thanksgiving holiday, November 23 through the 27; and, Christmas holiday, December 19 through January 1. We also want to run another Spring Break Detail. The Boca Grande Woman’s Club provided a grant to assist in the cost of continuance of this safety program for the 2011 year-end holidays.
One of the leading safety issues on the GICIA Bike Path continues to be dangerous passing without warning. We urge everyone using the path to slow down and warn or signal others as you approach them from behind and before passing. This means considering safety first for everyone – golf cart drivers, bicyclists, and walkers.
Earlier this year we explored the opportunities for improvements to the south bike path owned by Lee County. We worked closely with the county and with Hazeltine Landscaping to explore possibilities to create low-maintenance, attractive plantings wherever space permits. The county has indicated that they will be widening parts of the existing path.
This means that, for the time being, we will put our landscaping plans on hold until the widening project is complete. We will then be able to determine what planting space may be available.
Misty Nichols is the executive director of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association.
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