CREW Work Never Ceases

By Allison Vincent – CREW Trust – 5/20/2022

Partners, SFWMD and FWC clear fallen trees off the designated hunting trails

SFWMD – Shredding at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails

At first glance, shredding – or mechanically grinding a wider path – may seem like a drastic step in the wrong direction. Walking the uneven ground the land management machines leave in their wake, it’s easy to focus on the current destruction instead of the intended long-term benefits. So, give it some time, and much like the rest of the changes we’ve observed at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails (FPS), this too will lead to a more environmentally resilient ecosystem. 

Since its opening in 2018, we’ve seen remarkable changes at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails as this newest network of trails has grown and evolved. We know that connecting four (including the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp) parking lots may seem like a bit much, and maybe it is, but what those connections create in terms of accessibility is truly great. A substantial part of land management is to ensure accessibility. This involves widening the trails to allow others to wage the never ending battle of keeping them trimmed and mowed. This in turn helps create firebreaks to contain inevitable outbreaks of fire and ensures that first responders can reach those in need.  

One of the coolest things about the FPS trail system is the constant change that can be observed when we slow down long enough to pay attention to how the trails are always evolving. Return in ten years and you will likely find this trail system to have undergone the most changes of any within CREW. From the changes that wildfire brings, to the hydrologic restoration project, and the connection of the Purple Trail to CREW Bird Rookery Swamp, nothing ever stays the same at FPS!

FWC – Designated Trail maintenance at FPS

There are trails here for all levels of hikers and for every conceivable user group. Not unlike the waves of wading birds and alligators that populate FPS in all their wild ways; bikers, equestrians, long-distance hikers, wildflower seekers, photographers, birders, geo-cachers and hunters all flock to FPS. 

We’ve intentionally kept the hunting area separate from the trails for all user groups to enjoy their chosen pursuit of nature to its fullest. Far ahead of the hunt season, CREW FWC biologists hang “Designated Hiking” signs with a different color/shape to designate the hunting trails from the CREW hiking trails; they update hunt brochure policy and survey the huntable area by swamp buggy to ready the lands for this active user group. That includes a whole lot of trail trimming work as these areas of CREW rarely see a vehicle. 

CREW Trust volunteers aid in trail maintenance

SFWMD – Culvert installation at BRS

Future endeavors are on the horizon at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail, which has experienced natural degradation over the course of its public access history. The trail itself is historically significant, as a former logging road used to haul out old-growth cypress. The second-growth trees we now enjoy surround the old logging tram, with some of its original construction. 

It’s no wonder that some of the infrastructure has begun to crumble under the weight of bikers, hikers, bears, panthers and most significantly, land management trucks and heavy equipment. If you’ve hiked far enough, you’ve likely noticed the lack of trail upkeep on the far western banks of the trail. That’s simply because mowing contractors have not been able to traverse the broken down culverts desperately in need of replacement. That will all change in the coming months! 

The diligent South Florida Water Management District personnel assigned to look after CREW, have purchased several huge new culverts to install before the rainy season kicks into high gear. You can expect to see a temporary closure of the tram section of the trail in the next few weeks so that SFWMD personnel and contractors can complete the project as quickly as possible. The portion of the trail to remain open will include the parking area and boardwalk. 

In Sum

Keep an eye out for all these improvements by visiting CREW trail systems regularly. The CREW Land & Water Trust works to keep you informed about water and wildlife through guided walks, strolling science seminars, information kiosks and this series of blog posts. The hard work is handled by our partners, SFWMD and FWC, who keep our trails navigable and safe for humans and wildlife, and most importantly they protect and maintain our watershed. We owe them our thanks. 

CREW and You, part 3: WHEN

This is part 3 of a 6-part series on the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the CREW Land & Water Trust.

CREW Marsh Trails observation tower, overlooking the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh

This year the CREW Land & Water Trust is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. The “when” of our story started 30 years ago and we’ve been working hard ever since to preserve the water, land and wildlife within the 60,000-acre CREW Project.

We are proud of our history and our role in the CREW Project and encourage you to read about it in full on our HISTORY page.

It’s pretty difficult to condense all of our history into one infograph, especially considering the many names that have written this history. From founder Joel Kuperburg and our first executive director, Ellen Lindblad, to our longest-serving volunteer, Dr. David Cooper, our history includes volunteers, members, friends, land managers, biologists, students, professors, residents and visitors. We are thankful for everyone who has had a hand in the success of our nonprofit and look forward to working with you all in the years to come to preserve our watershed and its most important natural resource – water.

SFWMD announces public invite to Water Resources Analysis Coalition’s (WRAC) quarterly Recreational Issues Forum

The following is a press release from South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The CREW Land & Water Trust encourages all people who enjoy using the CREW Project trails for recreational purposes to attend this meeting. 

Oct. 17, 2018
Public Invited to WRAC Forum to Provide Input
on Recreation Program at CREW Management Area
The quarterly Recreational Issues Forum will be on the road in Fort Myers next week
Several miles of trails provide a variety of recreational opportunities for all ages at the CREW Management Area. Click on the image for a larger version.
Fort Myers, FL – Outdoor enthusiasts will have an opportunity next week to provide input and support for the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) current recreation program at one of Southwest Florida’s premier public lands.
The Water Resources Analysis Coalition’s (WRAC) quarterly Recreational Issues Forum will focus on the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Management Area. The CREW area offers several recreational activities, including hiking, bird watching, camping and hunting. The forum will be held:
Monday, October 22, 2018
Time: 5 p.m.
SFWMD Fort Myers Service Center
2301 McGregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33901
SFWMD and its partners – representing environmental groups and governmental agencies – manage CREW for its numerous benefits to water storage and wildlife preservation.
In April, SFWMD completed restoration of 1,000 acres of Southern CREW in Lee County, allowing the area to return to its natural hydrological conditions of periodic inundation. The restoration project benefits the entire Southwest Florida ecosystem and its residents by restoring wetlands and historic sheetflow of water, improving regional flood protection, drainage and increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability.

SFWMD Land Assessment Draft Recommendations Ready for Review

As you know, most of the CREW lands are owned by the South Florida Water Management District. The District is currently conducting a Lands Assessment of all the lands they hold within the 16-county region they govern. The assessment is to determine if there are some parcels that could be surplused.

Back in May, we told you about the opportunity to provide public comment on the Lands Assessment. You all did a fabulous job of submitting comments. You can see them here. You can also download additional documents from here.

Today (July 30), the District is holding another public hearing for comment on the DRAFT staff recommendations which resulted from your earlier public comment. The meeting will be held at the SFWMD West Coast Service Center Office on McGregor Blvd. in Ft. Myers at 10 AM this morning (July 30). If you cannot make the meeting, additional public comment will be accepted online between now and August 12th.

Thank you all for your participation in this important process and for submitting your thoughts about CREW. It takes everyone’s participation to make sure sound decisions are made.

How to Report a Python Sighting at CREW

…or a boa, or any other non-native, invasive snake.

You’ve seen the news reports. You know they are here. But have you ever actually seen a python while out hiking in southwest Florida? And what should you do if you see one at CREW?

Python photo from FFWCC

The first known sighting of a python in CREW occurred in Bird Rookery Swamp in 2005. Since then, no other sightings have been reported in the watershed – until this year. In June 2013, a 10-foot python was seen near the CREW field office off Corkscrew Road in Lee County. Last week, a 9-foot common boa was found by exotic plant treatment contractors in Flint Pen Strand off Bonita Beach Road.

These two recent sightings confirm that these large non-native snakes are moving into the CREW watershed, so we want you to know what to do if you see one while out hiking on the CREW trails.

  • First – do not approach the snake, but do confirm its identity, and if you can, take a photo and mark the GPS coordinates of the snake’s location.
  • Second – if the python or boa is still in your view and staying put, call the FWC Exotic Species Hotline number 888-IVE-GOT1 (888- 483-4681) to report the location.
  • If the snake is moving away and out of your sight, report it using the IVEGOT1 smartphone app for iPhone or Android or the website form at (register ahead of time, so you don’t have to do that part in the field)
  • Do not attempt to remove the snake. Only permitted, trained individuals may remove pythons or boas (also known as conditional species) and even then only from certain Wildlife Management Areas and other public lands with permits/permission from both FWC and the landowner.

And if you want to get more involved, you can complete this online training course from the University of Florida that will help you recognize and report large invasive reptiles. (REDDY – Reptile Early Detection and Documentation training)

REDDY Training

Additional info:

Quick Reference guides:

Reporting your sighting helps FWC, the SFWMD, and other agencies manage these invasive exotic species and determine their distribution and range. Burmese pythons and boas  are non-native snakes introduced in Florida by accidental and intentional releases by pet owners. They can be found in or near freshwater aquatic habitats like marshes and swamps and can grow up to 20 feet in length. They eat alligators, birds, mice, rabbits, raccoons, deer, and other small mammals. To learn more, visit the Python pages on the FWC website.

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Saw Palmetto Season Brings Illegal Activity to CREW

Saw palmetto berries on bush

It’s summer.

It’s hot.

It’s humid.

And it’s saw palmetto berry season.

That means there’s a lot of new activity in CREW – and some of it is illegal.

Saw palmetto berries are the fruit of the saw palmetto plant (Serenoa repens). Saw palmetto is the predominant understory plant in CREW’s pine flatwoods communities. The berries, which ripen in late summer, are an important food source for wildlife – especially the threatened Florida black bear.

They are also used as an alternative medicine by over 2 million U.S. men to treat benign enlargement of the prostate, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. That and other markets for the berries bring berry pickers to CREW each summer to harvest these fruits, which bring from 10 cents to $3.00 a pound, depending on scarcity and conditions each year.

Evidence the pickers are active

Berry picking on CREW lands is illegal. CREW lands are owned by the South Florida Water Management District and are designated as a Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The regulations for CREW prohibit the taking of any plants or plant parts, including saw palmetto berries which are a significant wildlife food source. FWC law enforcement officers do patrol the area regularly.

These lands are managed specifically for water and wildlife, so when berry-pickers illegally take berries, it disrupts food supply for animals that the CREW land managers and biologists work so hard to protect.

The berry-pickers were busy at CREW today. Our land manager discovered full berry bags and collection buckets all along the Cypress Dome Trails. The CREW staff then went out and helped to collect all the berry bags we could find, along with all the picking gear (and trash) left behind.

Full berry bags

If you are hiking on CREW lands during the next month or so and see anyone picking berries or if you see bags or other evidence of berry-picking, call the FWC Hotline at 888-404-3922. The more feet and eyes out on the trails during this time, the better – for the bears and all of CREW.

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