2021 Year in Review at CREW

River otter at CREW Flint Pen Strand

The CREW trails saw 51,664 people in 2021

Once in a lifetime panther pictures taken by guests at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp

Welcomed back third-graders, for the first time since 2019!

Florida Gulf Coast University students volunteered 2,012 hours

CREW Trust volunteers gave 4,425 hours in service

The NEW Purple Trail opened at CREW Flint Pen Strand

CREW Trust fundraiser began, Annual Trail Sponsors – look for signs at all trailheads

A Season Like No Other

by Allison Vincent, CREW Trust Communications

Your impact on the ecosystems in and surrounding the CREW trails has gone beyond our wildest expectations this year. We braced for a year without our largest fundraiser, the CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction, predicting a deficit, but wow, were we surprised! Because of your continued generosity and many new members, we’re standing on much steadier ground than expected.

We’ve all experienced many changes in the way we live this past year, and everyone has learned to pivot from our personal and shared normal. Fortunately, many of the “outside of the box” ideas we’ve applied to stay connected to you have worked very well, so well, that we might keep them up. Instead of larger groups for our programs, we limited enrollment in each one and increased the number of events or programs. This made it possible to bring more visitors to the trails, often for the first time, on more intimate tours, which allowed visitors to get a more individualized experience of CREW.

Our CREW Trust volunteers collaborated constantly on trail maintenance and improvements throughout all four CREW trail systems. We’re nearly ready to launch our newest trail  connecting CREW Flint Pen Strand and CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trails, a remarkable accomplishment years in the making! This new trail is marked with purple post signs.

Last but certainly not least, membership numbers increased by marked numbers, with many of you stepping up as ‘neighbors’ (both literal and implied) to the CREW lands. Thank you all!  Your support is the embodiment of true trail stewardship in action. You clearly care about the CREW Trust’s mission and the 60,000 acres of lands that surround these publicly accessible CREW trails.

Come Easter, we see a more predictable while ever difficult change when we say goodbye to many of our seasonal friends as they return to their summer homes. CREW is approaching its slower summer season as the summer heat and rainy season gives us opportunity to plan our 2021-2022 season of events for you.

Every individual makes an impact with their donation, as we have a wide variety of uses for every penny. From general trail maintenance, which requires tools and gear upkeep, to large purchases like kiosk signs to off-road vehicles and their maintenance. When you donate or become a member, every penny is multiplied by our expertly guided volunteer projects. Everything in these gritty Florida environs require continuous upkeep and periodic replacement. So, when you’re out on the trail and notice a new sign post, or observe a clear view of the wildlife ahead because the weed whacking crew was recently clearing the trail, just know that those things only happen because of your donations and the collective contributions of many friends of CREW.

Thank you for continuing to support the CREW Trust during this difficult and unprecedented time. Your commitment to environmental preservation has never been more strongly tested and proven than this season. You’ve stuck by what really matters and our South Florida environment will be stronger in the future because of your commitment.

We hope that, you and your friends and family make it out to the CREW trails a few more times before returning to your summer destinations. The CREW lands are thriving and continue to be a unique outlet for environmental preservation work, one that should give you some peace of mind in these trying times. Every time you take a drink of water, remember that it started in the CREW watershed and know you’re making an impact, and you’re making it for everyone.

For those who stay here throughout the summer, remember the CREW trails are open 365 days a year, 7 days a week, from sunrise to sunset. With four different trail systems, there’s always something new to explore, wildlife bucket lists to check off, and a seasonal change to observe.

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.            

CREW Trust Programs & COVID-19

*Wearing a face covering and social distancing is required while participating in CREW Trust Programs.*

If a participant chooses not to wear a face covering while on a CREW Trust program, they will be asked to leave the group and hike the trails on their own. 

As requirements change we will update you all on our website, social media, and E-blast subscription. 

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, follow these guidelines from the CDC:

  • Stay home if you don’t feel well, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (within 14 days).
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people who don’t live in your household.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of the elbow.
  • Soap and water are not available on the CREW trails, instead bring hand sanitizer to use that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Masks should not be placed on:

  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Children under age 2
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

Pop-Up Event at CREW this Saturday 5/9/2020

We miss seeing our CREW friends! 

Join us, the CREW Land & Water Trust staff at CREW Flint Pen Strand trails this Saturday, May 9th from 8-10 a.m. We can’t wait to see you so drive by to say HI or plan to take a hike and enjoy the trails. 

Brenda Brooks, our Executive Director will be in the Main parking lot (the big lot). You can catch up with Allison Vincent, our Communications Director out on the trails. If you’re into more bird watching and less hiking, be sure to head over to the Lakes Parking lot to say HI to our Education Coordinator, Jayne Johnston. Binoculars and guides will be available for you!

We will practice safe social distancing with face-cover, keeping at least 6 feet of separation at all times, and avoiding the trail “gauntlet” while hiking (see infographic above)

If you haven’t been to the newest CREW trail system here’s the address for CREW Flint Pen Strand – 15970 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34135 (left on dirt road)

See you on the CREW trails this Saturday!

CREW Trust Thanks Our Concert Sponsors

Your contributions have already helped to get the ball rolling on our newest programs developing at the Flint Pen Strand Trails. Environmental education for all ages is always a priority for the CREW Trust and I think you’ll agree that together we’ve made a huge impact in our community, one that continues to grow each year with your help.

Thank you for supporting  environmental education! We’re happy to have seen so many friendly faces at our CREW Concert this year. We really cherish our annual “friend-raiser” because it’s such a great place to get to talk with you, our sponsors. We sincerely hope you all had a fabulous time and hope to see you on our trails soon!

CREW Concert: Know Before You Go

Just a Few Days Until the CREW Concert!

Got your tickets? Shined your dancing shoes? Made a date with your significant other or family for this special occasion? Great! We look forward to seeing everyone at Riverside Park! 

Before you go, here’s a review of event details to help you plan a terrific night out.

1. Concert details

Location: Riverside Park, 10450 Reynolds Street, Bonita Springs

Date and time: Saturday February 29, 2020, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Schedule of concert events:

5:00 p.m.  Gates open

5:30 p.m. Silent Eco-Auction opens

5:30 p.m. Welcome by CREW Trust Team

5:40 p.m. High Voltage Band hits the stage

8:15 p.m. Silent Eco-Auction closes

8:30-9:15 p.m. Pick up and pay for Silent Auction items

9:00 p.m. Concert ends

2. Tickets

Buy them at CREWtrust.org in advance and save $5 over the price at the door. Adults pay $15 online or $20 at the door. Children under 12 enter free.  

Insider tip: Until noon on the day of the concert, tickets are $15 online-only.

3. Food and drink

Sandwiches, salads, barbecue and cupcakes will be available from Haney’s Cafe and Cherie’s Sweet Treats & The Lunch Box. The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs will again sell wine and beer and feature a specialty craft beer from Momentum Brewhouse. For more information about our vendors read through the Food Blog here

4. General suggestions

Please bring: Chairs or blankets to sit on; the kids (remember, no charge for kids under 12); and cash and/or credit cards to buy food and drink.

Please don’t bring: outside food and drink; or animals. 

5. Silent Eco-Auction

Preview the many unique and exciting items and experiences available at our Silent Eco-Auction here. Or you can walk through the Auction space during the concert and see what inspires you. 

To bid on an item or an adventure, write your name, phone number and the amount of your bid on the bid sheets. If you absolutely, positively want to own a particular piece of artwork or take home tickets to a unique outdoor adventure, enter the “Buy It Now” price. Bidding is closed at 8:15 p.m. Winners will be announced on a large sign near the Silent Auction area. Items must be paid for and picked up between 8:30 and 9:15 p.m.

6. Parking

Parking at the concert is free. Volunteers in bright blue t-shirts will direct you to available parking spaces. A limited number of handicap parking spaces will be available.    

7. VIP Cafe

Sponsors of the concert are given admission to the VIP Cafe as one way of thanking them for their generous support. The VIP Cafe is sold out, so it will not be possible to purchase seats on the night of the concert. If you’re interested in sponsoring the 2021 concert, please contact Brenda (brenda@CREWtrust.org).     

8. Proceeds

The annual “CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction” is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the CREW Land & Water Trust, which provides environmental education for all ages. The CREW Project is a 60,000-acre watershed spanning Lee and Collier counties which provides clean water for area residents and visitors, habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities. The money we earn with our annual concert helps us to provide environmental education to all ages. 

Thank you and let’s rock!

Great Food and Drink for a Great Cause!

The 13th annual CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction is fast approaching – on February 29, 2020 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – and you may be wondering what your food and drink options will be on that special night at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs. Take a look at what’s on offer: 

Cherie’s Sweet Treats

You don’t have to ask “What’s for dessert?” once you see these gourmet cupcakes at Cherie’s Sweet Treats tent. But you’ll have a difficult decision to make once you see the range of flavors. Some examples: Death by Chocolate; Key Lime; Key Lime with Coconut; Coconut with Raspberry; and Wedding Cake (vanilla). You’re sure to find one – or two or three – that you like. Cupcakes sell for $4 each.  

Cherie sells her delectable goods at these farmers markets:

Thursdays, Coconut Point from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Fridays, Boca Grande from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Saturdays, The Promenade from 8:00 a.m to noon

Sundays, Sanibel from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Cherie accepts credit cards for her sweets. Contact Cherie at cherie.vet@icloud.com or at 616-292-0339 to discuss custom orders. Find Cherie on Facebook.

The Lunch Box (owned and operated by Cherie)

Cherie may be best known for her gourmet cupcakes (see above) but her savory dishes and sandwiches are equally mouth-watering. A sample of the food she will offer at our concert: black bean quinoa bowl with orange vinaigrette dressing; farmers salad (with the option of adding a protein source); and a pulled pork sandwich. Sides and drinks will also be available. Cherie will sell meals for $15 (price includes drinks; price will be slightly lower if no protein is added).

The Lunch Box takes credit cards. Contact Cherie at cherie.vet@icloud.com or at 616-292-0339 to discuss her catering services.

Haney’s Cafe

Haney’s Cafe in Estero is a long-time local favorite specializing in homestyle cooking. For 15 years Haney’s has been offering breakfast and lunch from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Recently they’ve added barbecue to their menu, opening in the evenings from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The News-Press Readers Poll has named Haney’s “Bonita Springs Best” for six years in a row and Haney’s barbecue as a “Best Barbecue” in 2019.  

We are lucky that Haney’s is bringing the best of its menu to our concert in their food truck. You will be able to buy hamburgers, enticing sandwiches, chicken wings, chicken tenders, sides and – best of all – barbecue, including brisket and pulled pork. Check out the full menu at haneyscafefl.com.      

If you like the taste of Haney’s food at the Concert, visit their Estero location at 18011 S. Tamiami Trail #9, Ft. Myers. Telephone: 239-437-1120. Caution: Haney’s is a very popular breakfast venue, so you might want to arrive early for your custom made omelet. 

Beer and Wine from Rotary Club of Bonita Springs

Once again the Rotary Club of Bonita Springs will be the bartenders at our concert, offering a selection of beer and wine. One great option on hand will be a craft beer brewed in honor of  CREW made by our friends at Momentum Brewhouse. Momentum’s “CREW Brew” is always popular, so belly up to the bar early if you want to taste this locally made beer.

Momentum Brewhouse, a popular Bonita Springs watering hole, has moved since the 2019 Concert. It is now located at 28120 Hunters Ridge Boulevard, Units 1 – 3, east of I-75 and just off Bonita Beach Road. The new premises are larger and have permitted the addition of more craft beers, wine and coffee to their menu. Check out momentumbrewhouse.com to learn more or call 239-949-9945 to discuss special events.

High Voltage Band at the CREW Concert

Get ready to DANCE!

Celebrate the biggest night of the year for the CREW Trust – the CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction – at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs from 5 to 9 pm on February 29, 2020. 

Sure, the concert is a fundraiser for our environmental non-profit organization – but it’s so much more. It’s a chance for everyone to have a great night out while helping to protect our watershed.    

Have you had a chance to dance lately? Really let your hair down?  Providing the music and the energy for the evening is the HIGH VOLTAGE BAND, an in-demand local group with a wide repertoire. There’s music for all of us, from Motown to jazz to funk to current hits. Lots of irresistible guitar, keyboard, and saxophone music highlighted by compelling vocals.

Take a look at this video of the band in action:

If that’s not enough for you, check out the HIGH VOLTAGE BAND’s YouTube channel. See why this group gets rave reviews – and why we have chosen it as our featured concert performer for several years. 

Join us for the concert. We dare you not to dance!