Sharing the Trails with Children

Winter is one of our busiest seasons for environmental education programs out on the CREW Marsh Trails. So, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself on the trails along with 120 kids.


group of students on the CREW trails
Calusa Park students learn about CREW


The CREW Marsh Trail is an  exciting outdoor classroom for kids from both Lee and Collier Counties. Jessi Drummond,  our Environmental Education Specialist, takes 3rd graders out on a “Walk through the Watershed” where they spend time dip-netting, getting to know where their water comes from, and the importance of protecting the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.

Ricky Pires,  from FGCU’s Wing of Hope  Panther Posse Program, brings 4th and 5th grade students to the CREW Marsh Trails to teach them about the Florida panther, its habitat and research. FGCU college students help to lead the Wings of Hope field trips, giving them valuable service-learning experience.

Ricky Pires with Panther Posse students
Ricky Pires with Panther Posse students

Both of these programs, plus a variety of private and home school groups use the CREW trails to help educate the kids of all ages about CREW. As part of our mission to protect the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, these educational programs are important to developing support for the watershed and engaging people in its protection.

So, remember, the next time you go out to the CREW Marsh trails on a weekday from 10 AM to 1 PM, you may find kids exploring nature. Be glad they are there.

Anyone is welcome to come see the magic in action and experience the joy of children outdoors. For more information on CREW’s Environmental Education programs, click here.


CREW Volunteer, George Luther, Honored as Collier Tourism Star

George Award

On Wednesday, May 8th, 2013, CREW Volunteer George Luther was selected as  the winner in the “Best Innovative Idea” category at the Collier County/Paradise Coast Tourism Awards ceremony. George was nominated by CREW staff for his Nature’s Peace at CREW program for Alzheimer patients and their caregivers. His nomination beat out 18 others submitted for the same category.

Here is George’s nomination description:

“George Luther came to us at the CREW Land and Water Trust in the fall of 2011 with the idea of leading hikes at the newly opened CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail off Immokalee Road in Naples. After several months of successful hikes, and a chance encounter with an Alzheimer patient and her husband on one of those hikes, George came up with the idea to design a special guided walk for early-onset Alzheimer patients and their caregivers. He presented the idea to CREW staff and later to the Alzheimer Support Network in Naples. With the approval of that network and the CREW Trust, “Nature’s Peace at CREW” was born.

George designed the walk, planned the activities, and began connecting Alzheimer patients with nature. The guided walk consists of a very slow-paced stroll along the path of hard-packed crushed shell/limestone and the boardwalk at Bird Rookery Swamp. Along the walk, George stimulates the patients’ senses of touch, sight, smell and hearing by helping them observe natural objects that include plants, flowers, trees, water features, birds, mammals, reptiles, and butterflies. The accompanying caretakers get a brief respite from their daily duties of patient care while enjoying their loved one’s interaction with nature. George’s plan also incorporates the use of other CREW volunteers so patients have a more personalized experience. George welcomes each patient, designs and makes a special name tag  necklace for each patient to wear, and provides them with walking sticks.

Brenda Brooks, CREW’s Executive Director is eager to have these special visitors at CREW. “Hikers, photographers, mountain bikers and birders are just a few of the groups that enjoy CREW. Now, these guided walks will allow Alzheimer patients to benefit as well. Research has shown that Alzheimer patients benefit greatly when interacting with nature, and we’re thrilled to offer the opportunity for these patients to engage in healing walks at CREW”.
The first two walks in October and November demonstrated the power of the experiences. Patients who arrived with heads down, silent and closed off, left laughing and joking and happy. Caregivers thanked George for giving their loved ones a chance to remember their childhoods and enjoy a day of peace in nature.This program exposes a new user group to an often overlooked Collier County resource – the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails – which are free public lands and open to the public year round.

This innovative program is the only one of its kind in southwest Florida – bringing Alzheimer’s patients into the wild to help awaken memories and calm the mind and spirit. George is modest about his role, but the program never would have begun without his inspiration, dedication, and leadership.”

We are proud of George and very happy to have him on board as  a volunteer for CREW. His presence at Bird Rookery Swamp helps all the visitors more fully enjoy their experience there.

George Luther leads a Nature's Peace at CREW walk at Bird Rookery Swamp
George Luther leads a Nature’s Peace at CREW walk at Bird Rookery Swamp

See a News-Press article mentioning George’s award here.

Congratulations, George, and thank you for your dedication and passion for CREW and the community!


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