Adapting to the pandemic on the CREW trails

by Nan Mattingly

Everyone has a story about how the ongoing pandemic has rearranged his or her life. Some changes are major – working from home or losing a job. Difficulty finding childcare. Worry about loved ones becoming infected.

And some changes are less drastic. Instead of shopping for groceries in the usual places, more people are ordering food from shopping services or ordering online. Wearing a mask in public. Avoiding large gatherings.

Here at the CREW Land & Water Trust we’ve had to adapt, too. Because all of the trails are owned by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the CREW Trust must follow state regulations. When SFWMD closed all four of trail systems in April, we had to implement changes mandated by the state. We cancelled any remaining in-person events and once trails reopened, we posted signs reminding our visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing.    

Now that the winter season is beginning, we are again offering weekly guided tours and we’ve added a few new experiences (more about those below). The CREW Trust requires program participants to wear masks and make every effort to social distance wherever possible. Before we set foot on the trail, guests will sign two liability waivers – one for the CREW Land & Water Trust and one for the SFWMD. And we’ve added a nominal fee for each weekly tour, $5 per person for most of our guided tours and $10 per person for our “Bike the Loop” tour at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp. As usual, special tours with experts, such as a birding tour with renowned ornithologist Bernie Masters in January, start at $20. (Sorry – Bernie’s tour is sold out!) Members enjoy a reduced rate for most events.

Why have we put a price on our weekly tours? Last year they were free (though registration at our website has always been required). But during this pandemic we’ve felt the pinch just like everyone else. We have had to cancel our major yearly fundraising event, the CREW Concert & Silent Eco-auction, so we have had to look for other ways to raise money to support our educational and outreach programs.

Our new initiatives are intended to safely introduce more participants to our unique environments as well as to support our programs. On two Saturdays a month during this season we’re offering a chance to Bike the Loop at Bird Rookery Swamp. Bring your own bike and be prepared to get dirty! The 12-mile loop offers a moderately demanding experience as well as a chance to see lots of alligators. We’ve also added weekend guided tours at various trail systems.

To sign up for a guided tour or other events, please go to our website CREWtrust.org and explore the possibilities. This is a great chance to get outside and enjoy the glorious winter weather. Please remember that we follow CDC guidelines to keep all of us safe during this pandemic. When you sign up for a tour, you’ll find a recap of those important guidelines. Please be prepared to follow CREW Trust requirements when you’re on the trail with us.            

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