Story of a CREW Partnership: Lighthouse of Collier

Sometimes it takes a new perspective to appreciate the beauty of a place. Recently, one of our partners, Lighthouse of Collier, Center for Blindness and Vision Loss visited CREW as part of our Nature’s Peace program. They made the adventurous trip to the Bird Rookery Swamp trail for a specialty guided walk for their 20 guests, all of whom have visual impairments. Patiently they unloaded from their bus, white canes in hand, taking in the powerful smell of cypress trees and fresh rainfall. 

The weather was perfect for a walk and our hike leader, Doug Machesney and other CREW Trust volunteers were ready with special sensorial things to do, like listening to the blustery wind blowing through the bald cypress trees and passing around sweet smelling exotic flowers. The shedding cypress needles reminded these astute observers of the seasonal changes taking place. Florida’s subtle fall giving walkers the sensation of autumn leaf piles as they crunched their way along the edges of the boardwalk.   

Everyone enjoyed when Doug pointed out the traces of a bear on the handrail. They each took their time running their fingers over the claw marks engraved deep into the boardwalk handrail. Each person helping the next by slowly guiding hands to the indentations. 

Furthering the challenges of some, several of the participants did not speak English. Fortunately, a leader emerged from the group and self-appointed herself as the translator. She listened attentively to Doug’s stories and quietly translated for her friends. At the close of the hike, while everyone loaded back on the bus, she told me, “I’m forever grateful to the people at Lighthouse of Collier. They’ve changed my life, so I try to do everything I can to help others like me.” 

We are also grateful to Lighthouse of Collier for partnering with us years ago so their clients get the opportunity to enjoy all that nature has to offer them at CREW. We’re also very grateful to YOU for making this Nature’s Peace program and all of our other programs possible.

Hiking at CREW: A comparison of Second graders and college-aged students.

Purely by chance a series of college hikes, and second grade field trips, overlapped in the same week, giving this observer a first-hand look at some of the timeless similarities and funny differences between these two age groups.

The bus dismount goes about the same for both groups. Some faces clearly display their inner thoughts, that they actually have no idea they were going for a hike in the middle of a 60,000 acre watershed. Quickly though they are reassured by the guide that they are in good hands and that staff know the way back to the bus. As the students all breath in the fresh air, they generally relax and enjoy the introduction.

As the hike meanders through the diverse yet intertwined ecosystems, personalities start to emerge. This is where it gets interesting.

College students ask questions and make observations that are quite cerebral in nature, where as the second grader is more hands-on and scientific in their approach:

  • Most second graders want to pick up and touch everything. They get muddy, and when they’re hot, jump in a puddle or pour water on their heads. 
  • Whereas most college students wouldn’t volunteer pick up an insect or touch soil samples, even if it was directly handed to them.

The talented teachers and experienced CREW Trust staff teach the perspective groups about a range of topics from observational details about wildlife and plant species to the benefits of prescribed burns, water quality in Florida aquifers, and what exactly is a Cypress Dome. 

  • The second grader often asks authentic, unprovoked, and funny rhetorical questions about the immediate world around them.
  • A college student tends to represent a broader knowledge and asks worldly and provocative questions, leading to some interesting discussions with classmates.
Stephanie Bravo holds a wild blueberry, while expertly warning the students to never eat what you find on the trail.

Guide says: Guess who likes eating these berries?

Students: BEARS!!

Concerned student asks: What do I do if I see a bear?

Guide responds: Well, first of all you probably won’t. But if you do know you’re lucky. Then look big and walk away slowly. You can wait until it leaves and continue your hike. Oh, and hike with a parent or friend.

Florida summer is particularly hot and buggy, but staff points out it’s also the time of year we see water-loving flowers in abundance and say goodbye the youngest Swallow-tailed Kites migrating to South America. The point of all this is to see these things first hand, to push personal boundaries and make a connection with the wild spaces around us. 

  • Second graders will apply their experience in the classroom and start to connect the bigger picture of watersheds and wildlife habitats to conservation projects.
  • College students may give back, volunteer, or spread the word to friends.

Getting back on the bus, regardless of the age group, students walk away with an awareness of the land and the role they can choose to play through conservation.

You’re invited to our first annual Family Fun Day!

As part of our commitment to teaching people of all ages about our mission to protect the watershed and wildlife of the 60,000 acre CREW Project, the CREW Land & Water Trust will host its first annual Family Fun Day on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Cypress Dome Trails, located just 15 minutes east of I-75 at 3980 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee FL 34142.

So, what exactly is going on, and why?

We are passionate about helping families connect with nature. So many students come to the trails on school field trips, and our hope is that they will return with their families. At the same time, we know from leading walks that many people need a guiding hand to help them reach the comfort level they need to walk the trails with family and friends.

On Saturday, when families arrive, children will receive a Nature Passport and travel to 10 different stations. They’ll measure their wingspan to see if they can reach as wide as an eagle, they’ll check out a camping demonstration in our primitive and private camping site, they’ll learn about the birds that might see on the CREW Trails and head out on a guided walk with one of our volunteer naturalists. On the walk, families will learn about the flora and fauna around them and hopefully become more comfortable on the trails and more interested in the ecosystems around them.

This event is free for members and $5 per family for non-members. You can register on eventbrite or at the event. Please wear appropriate footwear for sandy trails and bring water and snacks.

We hope to see you Saturday!

Come play with us at the Charlotte Harbor Nature festival

The CREW Land & Water Trust will be at the Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival on Saturday, November 19, 2016!


Come visit our table. We will be handing out brochures, program fliers, and information about CREW and the trails. There will be other environmental organizations, guided walks, food, kid’s activities and more at the festival. The Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival is one of dozens of festivals the CREW Trust supports during the year.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) has supported CREW’s mission for many years through grants for some of our programs and supplies. We appreciate the opportunity to support them in return. SO, come on out and bring the family for a fun day!

CREW Trust will be at “Ding” Darling Days

The CREW Land & Water Trust will be at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge for the “Ding” Darling Family Fun Day on Sunday, October 16th, 2016. Come visit our table. We will be handing out brochures, program fliers and information about CREW and the trails.ding darling days 2016

Free Family Fun Day kicks off ‘Ding’ Darling Days October 16-22, 2016

“Ding” Darling Days weeklong birding and eco-festival kicks off at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island on Sunday Oct. 16, 2016 with a free Family Fun Day. Family Fun Day features free activities such as narrated refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, kids nature crafts, a touch tank, a butterfly house, a photo-share kiosk, and archery lessons. CREW Land & Water Trust will have an outreach table and a fun track ID activity. Enjoy a day outside with the whole family.

For a full “Ding” Darling Days schedule, visit, or call 239-472-1100.


Fun community events in January 2016

Festival in the Woods at Picayune Strand State Forest

festival in woods 2016Saturday, January 23, 2016 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Sabal Palm Trail Trailhead

Please join us for the third annual Festival in the Woods! Event will be held at the Sabal Palm Trailhead located on Sabal Palm Road 3.3 miles east of Collier Boulevard (951). There will be guided hikes, wildlife presentations, guided bicycle tours, childrens activities, and environmental exhibitors & vendors. Admission & parking is free, and lunch is on us!

More information:


Wings Over Water Festival at Harns Marsh Harns Marsh Wings Over Water Festival | Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, 2016

January 30th, 2016 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Come enjoy lectures from experts; exhibitions by wildlife and education-related organizations and businesses; activities, guided walks and discussions on various species of flora and fauna. Free for the whole family!

More information:

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