By Allison Vincent, CREW Trust Communications Director
Have the equestrian trail rules changed? Not exactly, but there has been some need for clarification. The CREW lands, managed by the South Florida Water Management District in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision (FWC), have designated two trail systems available for riding. Two equestrian access points are available to riders, including one at CREW Flint Pen Strand main parking lot for the Yellow trail North and South, and the other at CREW Cypress Dome trails. Trails were designated for equestrian use based on several parameters, including the impact horses have on various ecosystems, including sensitive wetlands.
To help make these rules easier to navigate for our equestrian riders, the language was updated on the special use license (SUL), the permit required to ride, including a map with more specific instructions for each trail location. Additionally, for the protection of the preservation lands, especially the wetlands, brown signs have been installed along the trails at CREW Flint Pen Strand aimed as a last effort to remind riders of the boundaries patrolled by FWC law enforcement.
You might be wondering why aren’t all the trails accessible to equestrians? This is a complicated question, but ultimately it comes down to the long-term protection of the 60,000-acre watershed and the role preservation plays in the recharge of the local aquifer where our drinking water is extracted. Understandably, horses cause more disturbance to the land on which they tread than the average hiker, especially in sensitive areas throughout much of the CREW Flint Pen Strand trails. Which is why hikers won’t find equestrian riders in wetland and marsh areas such as the new Purple trail and lakes area of the CREW Flint Pen Strand trails, nor will they ever be seen on the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp tram. However, when you share the multi-use trails available to horseback riders, like the Yellow trails North and South, please be sure to yield to the horses.
Thank you to all our equestrians for pulling permits and staying on the designated trails. Your cooperation ensures the conservation of these CREW lands for future generations. We hope you enjoy the equestrian trails at CREW Flint Pen Strand and CREW Cypress Dome trails.
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 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.
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!
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!
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/
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/
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/
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!
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
Like our Facebook page @CREWtrust if you’re interested in future events.
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.
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!
Q: What should people do if they see a black bear on one of the trails?
A: Florida Black Bears are the only bear species that inhabit Florida. Safety tips are different with different species of bears due to their varying life histories. The following safety tips refer to black bears and not necessarily brown bears, Grizzly bears, or other bear species.
Think of a black bear as a large, stray dog in your neighborhood. Precautions you’d take with a stray dog apply to black bears too. Don’t make direct eye contact (a threat gesture), don’t run, and don’t turn your back to it.
First, make some noise (clapping hands, bell, whistle) so the bear knows that you are there. Surprising any wild animal is not a good thing.
Stand tall and make yourself look larger by raising your hands above your head. Adults should pick up and hold small children.
Then, back away slowly and get a safe distance away from the black bear. Just like dogs, black bears have a chase instinct and will go after something running from them even if they do not mean any harm. Once you are at a safe distance, you can snap a few photos and enjoy the moment.
Black bears in the wild are shy animals and generally not aggressive towards people. Exceptions would be a black bear that is strongly food conditioned and smells any food you are carrying, and a female black bear who is protecting her cubs. If you see a small cub seemingly by itself, back off immediately. The mother black bear is somewhere very close, and she is watching her cub and she is watching you.
A black bear is a large, powerful, wild animal. It pays to be cautious and to not provoke it, so know a little about black bear behavior before meeting one.
If a black bear stands on its hind legs, it’s not a threat; it just wants to get a better look and smell of the situation.
However, stamping its front legs, jaw popping (snapping its jaws together to make a popping noise), huffing (blowing air out of its nose and mouth quickly), or bluff charging (rushing toward a person but stopping before physically making contact) means it is nervous, and you need to back away from the black bear. Allow the black bear plenty of room to escape, which is all it really wants to do.
If a black bear does approach you and attack, hold your ground and fight back.
The CREW Trust is partnering with Caloosa Saddle Club members to offer a first-ever guided horseback ride at CREW on Friday, March 21, 2014. The ride will be approximately 15 miles through parts of Flint Pen Strand and around the Bird Rookery Swamp tram loop. This special ride requires participants to bring their own horses, water, snacks/lunch, and horse and rider to be in good riding condition for a long (15-mile) ride. Coggins papers must be current and presented at the entrance on the day of the ride.