Discing, shredding, prescribed fire and other disruptive yet helpful things at CREW

By Allison Vincent

Pine trees and understory growth after a prescribed burn at CREW Flint Pen Strand

Some recent guests on the CREW trails have inquired why they’re torn up? The long-range plans and efforts of the South Florida Water Management District (the District hereafter) can be a challenge on initial view, as “discing” and “shredding” projects can resemble hog damage or really knobby ATV tires wrecking havoc, both of which land managers set out to prevent. So why are they seemingly adding to the destruction? 

These tracks of discing and shredding are in fact intentional and well-planned measures designed to prepare for upcoming prescribed burns or chemical treatment, ultimately preventing vegetation from getting out of control. Vegetation can include non-native plants, shrubby understory, or native plants and trees that have grown out of balance with historical norms. Forestry science is behind the land management plans in place and its driving force is the long-range preservation goals of the CREW project. 

Even though the trails look less than ideal when torn up and the rough patches can make hiking and biking more difficult, just remember why CREW is here in the first place. It’s all about the water. These efforts benefit the watershed where we get our drinking water. Also, it’s good to think of the hierarchy of needs throughout the CREW lands like this: it begins with water and land management, then comes preserving habitat and then recreational opportunities for everyone.

Let’s discuss the management process we’re looking at on the trails. In order to perform a prescribed burn the District team must get approval from the state of Florida. Often this overlaps with an annual shredding plan, replete with maps and intensity, to clear the ground of any obtrusive vegetation before burns are scheduled. The burn prescription is based on several environmental factors, such as wind speed and direction, humidity and the burn history in the area. 

Assuming the burn prescription was approved the team, formed from several agencies including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC hereafter), must then coordinate their efforts and communicate their plans with the surrounding community. Working from a burn map (or planning map), the lead manager will direct the team to burn the fire line. In constant communication, the team stays on the fire from start to finish, following up the next several days for safety and reporting. 

Ultimately, the goal is to decrease the amount of understory vegetation in the CREW project, to prevent wildfires from getting out of hand, and encourage healthy native species growth. Many native fire-dependent species exist in the CREW lands, including the Slash Pine trees and Saw Palmetto which have evolved to withstand heat and benefit from fire. Prescribed burns also benefit the wildlife native to CREW, including the gopher tortoise, which prefers some open scrub to the encroachment of the long-living Saw Palmetto.

Hopefully, the next time you see the process or after-effects of the land management efforts to preserve these lands you will have a better understanding of their long range intentions. If you would like to learn more about this process, there are a few great resources found here. Always feel free to reach out to our office or that of the District with your questions.

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.            

Kids on the Trail

Volunteer Perspective Series

by Nan Mattingly

Does your family have cabin fever?

The CREW Land & Water Trust has a solution – four trail systems that offer you and your family a chance to get outside and get a breath of fresh air while staying safe from the coronavirus. Granted, the Florida summer is hot and you may get your feet wet, but we promise it’s worth it! Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe and healthy and hints about what you might see.

Before you go:

— Choose your destination: check out CREWtrust.org for descriptions and locations of all four trail systems. Each one is unique. Pick the one that suits your family best. Study the trail maps and plan your hike using the mileage indicated for each trail.  

— Fill your backpacks: each hiker should have a backpack with water, a snack, a face covering, and a safety device like a whistle. Kids can make their own personal alarms in the form of a “wildlife shaker” – an empty can filled with a few coins or pebbles and sealed with tape.   

— Gather items for the group: sunscreen, extra water, bug repellant, binoculars, and maybe even a picnic lunch. A cell phone is handy for taking photos and is also good to have in case of emergency. Bring a trash bag so you can carry out leftover food and trash. Leave no trace of your presence on the trails.  

— Dress like a pro hiker: everyone should wear close-toed shoes, a hat and long pants. If it’s been raining, trails are sure to be wet, so old tennis shoes make the best footwear.

— Plan your departure time: in the summer heat, you might want to kick off early, or you could wait till the heat loses its intensity around 4:00 p.m. All trail systems are open from dawn to dusk. Check the weather just before you leave home and reschedule if lightning is predicted.   

At the trailhead:

— Take a minute to scan the kiosks at each trail system – you might find some useful information.

— Take a photo of the trail map on the kiosk or pick up a copy of the trail map from the brochure rack.

— Take advantage of the porta-potties at the trailhead since there are no facilities on the trails. Pro tip – bring a small roll (without the cardboard) for emergencies. 

On the trail: 

— Walk slowly and use all your senses. Big things like trees, marshes, larger birds such as herons, vultures, hawks, otters, rabbits, etc. are easily spotted but take time to look for smaller things like butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, and dragonflies. Note their unique characteristics and colors as well as their behaviors. Birds are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

— The CREW project is home to larger animals, too, but you’re very unlikely to encounter any of them on the trail. Most of them avoid intruders (that’s you) in their habitats. You might see the flash of a white tailed deer running away from you. If you get to see any of these elusive larger animals, consider yourself lucky! 

— Picking flowers, seeds and plants is not allowed. Take a picture instead and use your photos to identify interesting things you’ve seen. 

— A special note about CREW Bird Rookery Swamp: this unique habitat, an old cypress logging swamp, is home to many alligators. Occasionally gators sun themselves on the trails or along the sides of trails. Be alert and don’t feed them or do anything to provoke them. Use good judgment and turn around if necessary. Walking dogs here is not recommended.           

A note to parents: you’re the hike leader. Keep a close eye on your group and make sure everyone stays in the middle of the trail (fire ants live on the edges). Teach your hikers good trail manners – courtesy to other hikers and consideration for wildlife. For example, wildlife shakers or whistles should be used only in case of a real emergency because the noise will upset the inhabitants of the woods.  

During this pandemic, we’re all safer outdoors than inside but we still have to observe good health practices. Everyone in your group should have a face covering, and they should be worn when you encounter others on the trail. Maintain a safe distance (at least six feet) from hikers not in your group. When other hikers are walking toward you on the trail, have your group move to one side of the trail to help maintain an appropriate distance. Follow local guidelines and check to make sure the trails are open before you go.  

Despite the heat, this is a great time to get acquainted with CREW trails and banish that cabin fever!

Photo Scavenger Hunt

The April Edition

During the CREW trails closure we asked CREW Trust Facebook fans to send in their best photos from before the closure. We called it the CREW Trust Photo Scavenger Hunt and the response was impressive.


1.) Swallow-tailed Kite, Elanoides forficatus

1st place photo from category one of our #stayathome contest is another Swallow-tailed Kite! This one comes to us from Dick Brewer. Thank you for the beautiful mom and chicks photo!

Swallow-tailed kites come to us from South America midwinter to nest. The adults and juveniles migrate back separately in late summer. Keep an eye out in late summer for large flocks of these birds. https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/swtkit/cur/introduction

photo by Dick Brewer

2nd place winner for our first category of the #stayathome photo contest – Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) by Anthony Eugenio. Thank you Anthony for your beautiful submission! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swallow-tailed_Kite/id

photo by Anthony Eugenio

2.) Native Florida wildflower

1st place in category two of our #stayathome contest – St. John’s Wort/Hypericum by Brenda Thomas, CREW Trustee! Thanks for this beauty, Brenda!

You may have heard of St. John’s Wort as a medicinal remedy. We don’t recommend picking these flowers since they are in their raw form and you cannot legally collect from CREW. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/st-johns-wort-and-depression-in-depth

photo by Brenda Thomas

2nd place in category two of our #stayathome photo contest. Photo by CREW Volunteer Dick Brewer https://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/bletia-purpurea

photo by Dick Brewer

3.) Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus

1st place in category 3 of our #stayathome contest is Morris Gieselman with the Red-headed woodpecker! Beautiful shot, Morris! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id

photo by Morris Geiselman

2nd place in category 3 of our #stayathome photo contest is this Red-headed woodpecker by CREW Trust volunteer, Dick Brewer! What a great catch (for you and the woodpecker)! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id

photo by Dick Brewer

4.) Animal track

1st place in our #stayathome contest is an alligator track from CREW Bird Rookery Swamp by Patty Pushcar! If you have out of town guests interested in seeing a real and wild American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), CREW Bird Rookery Swamp is the place! https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/reptiles/alligator

2nd place in our #stayathome contest is Anthony Eugenio with another American Alligator Track from the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail! Thanks, Anthony, for sharing this cool photo! https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/American-Alligator-Fact-Sheet.pdf

photo by Anthony Eugenio

5.) An arthropod

1st place in our #stayathome contest is this species interaction between a spider and raccoon. Congrats, Brenda Centenaro Stelzer, for capturing such a neat photo at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp. https://www.fdacs.gov/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Florida-State-Collection-of-Arthropods

photo by Brenda Stelzer

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from Anthony Eugenio of a common arthropod, the Lubber Grasshopper. If you’re seeing them on the trails this time of year, there are smaller, black, with an orange, red or yellow line running from their face to their tail.


photo by Anthony Eugenio

6.) CREW at night from one of the two campsites

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from a former FWC biologist and current Conservation Collier Environmental Specialist, Molly DuVall at our CREW Cypress Dome Trail Gate 3 Campsite. While we miss Molly, we appreciate that she still enjoys the trails and camping at CREW in her free time!

photo by Molly DuVall

2nd place of our #stayathome contest comes from Anthony Eugenio at our CREW Marsh Trail Gate 5 Campsite. Campsites are still not open, but when available, they are enjoyed one group at a time. Primitive camping under the stars with only a fire ring and picnic table. Nature at its best!

photo by Anthony Eugenio

7.) Sunrise or sunset from one of the four trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest is a sunrise and moonset over CREW Flint Pen Strand by John Lane. Spectacular, John! CREW Flint Pen Strand is our newest trial system and the only one in Lee County. https://crewtrust.org/flint-pen-strand-2/

photo by John Lane

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from CREW Trust volunteer, Dick Brewer at CREW Flint Pen Strand. Dick is a wealth of knowledge and has contributed significantly to the educational resources available on our website. We cannot succeed in the work we do without volunteers like Dick. https://crewtrust.org/crew-trail-guides-educational-materials/

photo by Dick Brewer

8.) Equestrian activities at CREW Flint Pen Strand or CREW Dome Trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from Jennifer Law at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails. Did you know that horseback riding is available at CREW Flint Pen Strand and CREW Cypress Dome Trails? You’ll still need a free special use license from the South Florida Water Management District, but it is well worth it based on the number of equestrians using the trails. Thank you, Jennifer! https://crewtrust.org/horseback-riding/

photo by Jennifer Law

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from Dick Brewer at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails. You don’t have to be a horseback rider to appreciate the sport of human and animal enjoying a healthy dose of exercise in nature! https://animalscience.tamu.edu/2015/06/15/study-examines-health-benefits-of-horseback-riding/

photo by Dick Brewer

9.) Bicycling with friends at one of the three CREW trails

1st and 2nd place in our #stayathome contest go to Dick Brewer! Bicycle riding the 3 of our 4 trails, especially CREW Bird Rookery Swamp, is a favorite activity for many of our volunteers and visitors. The other 2 trails available for bicycling are CREW Cypress Dome and CREW Flint Pen Strand. 

10.) Walking your leashed pet at one of the four CREW trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from Cash and Molly! Dog walking is encouraged at all 4 of our trails as long as they are on a short (6’) leash – the safest option for you, your dog, and wildlife!


photo by Molly DuVall

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from John Lane at the CREW Marsh Trails. We are so happy to see our furry friends and their owners using the trails safely. Protect your pets while at home and on the trails. https://myfwc.com/media/1892/protect-your-pet.pdf

photo by John Lane

Like our Facebook page @CREWtrust if you’re interested in future events.

All CREW Trails OPEN- April 29, 2020

You’ve all waited patiently for your favorite CREW trails to reopen. Well, the day has arrived!

You can immediately head out to the trails to enjoy the fresh air at all four CREW trail systems: Bird Rookery Swamp Trail, CREW Marsh Trails, Cypress Dome Trails and Flint Pen Strand Trails.

Please remember we all need to practice social distancing, even on the trails.

Consider the “bottleneck” areas, like the parking lot or boardwalks as spaces to be especially considerate of others space.

We will continue to update our media pages as we learn more from the South Florida Water Management District.

All CREW Trails Closed Effective April 4th

April 3, 2020

As part of ongoing efforts to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect public safety, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will temporarily close the all CREW trails, effective at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Closure includes Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome and CREW Marsh trails.

The District follows the lead of local governments that have issued Safer at Home orders in their communities and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health.

Read the official post from South Florida Water Management District blog: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/sfwmd-temporarily-closing-crew-lands-southwest-florida-reduce-potential-spread-covid-19

All CREW Trails are STILL OPEN

Check our website for daily updates regarding trail status

We want everyone to know that all four of the CREW trail systems- Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome Trail, and CREW Marsh Trails are all currently open. We are updating our website daily with current information regarding their status. So get out to the trails soon, just be sure to keep a 6-foot distance between yourself and others. As always, your donations and support are greatly appreciated, so bring a few extra bucks to drop in the donation box on the trails. Stay well everyone!

CREW Trust announces 2018-2109 Season Programs

We’re very excited for this season’s programs and crossing our fingers for no large weather events and good trail conditions!

Registration for our 2018-2019 programs will open on Tuesday, September 4 for all CREW Trust Members. Non-member registration will open one week later on Tuesday, September 11. You must be a current CREW Trust member to register during our first week, so please make sure your membership is up to date or join today online at crewtrust.org/become-a-member/.

Hikers at Bird Rookery Swamp by Bill Zaino


Strolling Science Seminars

Our scholarly walks for ages 18 and older are always a hit and sell-out quickly! This year we have four set dates and will have a pop-up Strolling Science Seminar on Prescribed Burning when conditions are conducive to hosting that event.

November 8: Mad Batters of CREW: Join CREW FWC biologist and bat expert Kathleen Smith for a batty evening at Bird Rookery Swamp! This a hands-on experience for a small group of participants. We will set up and monitor mist nets and learn about the different bats that call Bird Rookery Swamp home.

November 10: Not-So-Naked-and-Afraid: Roger Hammer, wildflower expert, amazing story teller and friend of CREW has also worked as a consultant on the television series Naked and Afraid. Think you could survive 21 days with no clothes and no supplies in the wilds of CREW? Roger will tell you what to do – and what not to do – along with a lot of stories from his time on the trails and time working on the shows.

December 7: Exploring the Outdoors with your Inner Child: Our weekly guided walk guests at the CREW Marsh trails often see Ricky Pires’ field trips or the CREW Trust’s field trips in action and ask us “What are those kids doing?” If you want to learn about CREW from a kid’s point of view, join Ricky and Jessi Drummond, our former education coordinator, for dip netting, scent stations and more! Plus you’ll get to play some games like Oh Deer! and Save the Wildlife Bingo.

February 23: Descent with Modification: Natural Selection: On this walk with Jack Berninger, participants will discuss the foundation principles that explain how all life developed on planet Earth. The pillars of this foundation are variations; reproduction, selection and time. These supports will be viewed in the flora and fauna as you stroll the trails.

Prescribed Fire: Thaddeus Penfield and Joe Bozzo, our CREW South Florida Water Management friends, will lead a pop-up strolling science seminar in January or February on prescribed burning. They will discuss the role of fire in the natural history of the landscape and show how they use fire today to manage the acres within the CREW Project.


Specialty Walks

October 20: Fall Wildflower Walk: Join Brenda Thomas for a stroll along the trails where you’ll see the bounty of Florida’s fall wildflowers! And, if you’re lucky, it might be pine lily time.

January 26 and March 9: Birding with the Master: It’s the return of Dr. Bernie Master! After a year spent travelling the world, Dr. Master is back and leading two birding sessions in Bird Rookery Swamp. These sessions are for everyone from serious birders to beginners.

April 13: Spring Wildflower Walk: Springtime means a new rush of color on the trails! Participants will stroll through the CREW Marsh Trails with Roger Hammer, author of several wildflower books including The Complete Guide to Florida Wildflowers. 


Free Guided Walks

Our free guided walks schedule has changed this year and walks will be offered on select dates at Bird Rookery Swamp and the CREW Marsh Trails.

Save the Date: 2019 CREW Concert Under The Stars & Silent Eco Auction: February 16, 2019 5-9 p.m. featuring the High Voltage Band at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs.

Registration for members opens on September 4; for non-members on September 11. All programs require registration; visit eventbrite.com after registration opens. CREW Trust members will receive an email on September 4 when registration opens.

Alligators and YOU

So many friends of the CREW Land & Water Trust love Bird Rookery Swamp and head there on a regular basis for wildlife viewing. The number one, top-of-the-list animal they are there to see?



For first-time visitors, seeing an alligator seems thrilling and exciting until they almost step on one along the tram/trail or have the unfortunate luck to have their path blocked by a sunning gator. In response to a few calls we’ve received over the last few weeks, we’ve compiled some answers to frequently asked alligator questions.

Why are there so many alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp?

Bird Rookery Swamp is prime amazing fantastic Grade-A alligator habitat. It’s like an alligator gated community. Some of the neighbors keep to themselves, some live in the way back where it’s pretty private, and others like to walk around in their front yards and yell about HOA regulations.

Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.

The CREW Project is 60,000-acres and is first and foremost land preserved for water, and second land preserved for wildlife. And Bird Rookery Swamp does a great job holding water and housing alligators. Who then meet up with other alligators and, well – you know the rest.

Why don’t you have rangers there to warn people about the alligators?

Let’s do a CREW Trust two-sentence refresher:

The CREW Land & Water Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization that is part of the greater CREW Project. We provide environmental education at the three (soon to be four) trail systems within the CREW Project.

What isn’t in that sentence? We – the CREW Trust- do not own the land. There is no fee to access the public lands that are owned and managed by South Florida Water Management District. So, no rangers. We do have FWC law enforcement that patrol within the 60,000-acre project. But, again, no paid rangers.

We do have volunteers who are on the trails during programs and as trail stewards, but with around 40-volunteers, we do not have someone permanently stationed at Bird Rookery Swamp to inform folks about alligators.


Where can I find information about the alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp?

In the parking lot. At the kiosk. At the second kiosk at the end of the shell path before you turn onto the boardwalk. At the talking trail post on the boardwalk. AND at the end of the boardwalk before you step down onto the grassy tram.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Florida Water Management District and the CREW Trust have multiple signs, starting in the parking lot, that offer information about alligators and what to do when in their presence.

(That’s kind of important right there- what should HUMANS do in presence of alligators – because humans are walking into the homes of the alligators and not vice versa)

FWC has fantastic alligator resources! Please check a few of these out:

Wildlife Viewing Ethics

Living with Alligators

What should I do if an alligator is laying on the path and blocking my way?

Try saying “Hey Susan move over!”

If that doesn’t work, and it probably won’t even if the alligator is named Susan, you have to either turn around and go back the way you came or have a seat and wait. (This is a good time to remind you to pack water and snacks if you go to Bird Rookery Swamp).

Because of how the Bird Rookery Swamp trail is shaped – a number 9 – there really is only one way out and one way in, so an alligator sunning itself across the tram can create quite a long day for a group of hikers.


You cannot throw rocks at the alligator or poke it with a stick. It is illegal to harass an alligator and this is regulated by FWC Law Enforcement.

Will alligators bite me or my dog or my children?

We do not have any record of such incidents occurring and we would like to keep it that way.

A great resource for answers to this question, and more related to alligators and biting, is the FWC human-alligator incident fact sheet.

A few notable excerpts from that fact sheet:

  • ” Be aware of the possible presence of alligators when in or near fresh or brackish water.
  • Negative alligator encounters may occur when people do not pay close attention to their
    surroundings when working or recreating near water.
  • Closely supervise children when they are playing in or around water
  • Observe and photograph alligators only from a safe distance. Remember, they are an
    important part of Florida’s natural history as well as an integral component of freshwater
  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators
    except under permit.
  • Never remove an alligator from its natural habitat or accept one as a pet.”

And probably the most important take-away from the FWC fact sheet:

The likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.2 million. 


I do not feel comfortable with the large number of alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp. What can I do about this?

One of the best things about Southwest Florida is that we have so many great places to walk and experience nature. A primitive trail system where humans are directly sharing space with native wildlife may not be for everyone, and we understand that.

If you would like to increase your comfort level, we encourage you to sign up for one of our guided walks with a volunteer naturalist at Bird Rookery Swamp. Or visit the CREW Marsh Trails or Cypress Dome Trails which have significantly less alligators.

If you would prefer to hike someplace that does not share the trail directly with wildlife, we encourage you to explore other trails in the area, such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the Gordon River Greenway and Naples Preserve.

Trail conditions at the newly-reopened Bird Rookery Swamp

Oh, hello people. Where’ve you been?

Thank you everyone for all of the happy comments on our blog, in our inboxes, in private messages an Facebook and in comments on social media. We’re just as excited as you are that Bird Rookery Swamp is finally open!

The closure wasn’t just hard on staff, or our visitors. It was really hard on our volunteers. Many of them started volunteering with us because they visited Bird Rookery Swamp so often and feel a connection to that trail system and the flora and fauna that call it home.

As soon as it opened, our BRS regulars hit the trails and sent us happy selfies, trail condition reports and photos.

Volunteer Peter Davis, an avid cyclist who leads a private buided bike tour that is exclusively offered at our silent auction each year, sent us this trail conditions report aimed mainly at cyclists – but it’s great information for those hikers that like to do the whole almost-13 mile loop.

A summary of Peter Davis’ report from 3/12/2018
–  Work by the South Florida Water Management District’s contractor has improved portions of the trail that needed attention prior to the hurricane. 
–  The trail is in relatively good condition for cycling up until the fork at approximately mile 2.
–  Around mile 3 and onward the trail gets softer and there are sections of tall grass and other plants that make it hard to see the trail below the vegetation in some areas.
–  There are no places that require a water crossing, no large trees down, and no places where the mud is too deep the get through.  
–  Accomplished cyclists with wider tires on their bike should be able to do the whole trail without stopping or dismounting if they choose to do so.  
–  As usual, there are many alligators sunning themselves on the trail.  Note from staff: always keep a safe distance from wildlife; to read more on ethically viewing wildlife, visit http://myfwc.com/viewing/how/ethics/.
–  The wildlife viewing seems much better than in the past both in terms of quantity and quality.
–  Between mile 8 and 9.5 there are some deeper mud/water holes on the trail that are hard to see in the vegetation so please use caution.
–  Anyone planning to turn around should go counter-clockwise, as the most difficult trail sections start about a mile to the left of the fork.
Don’t forget you can sign up for our free weekly guided walks at Bird Rookery Swamp, offered each Wednesday at 9 a.m. through the end of March! Sign up on eventbrite.com. And we look forward to seeing you on the trails!
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