As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to impact our communities, the CREW Trust is taking proactive measures such as canceling and/or postponing all public events on the CREW trails as directed by the South Florida Water Management District. That includes but is not limited to guided walks, events, group gatherings, volunteer events, etc. The CREW Trust will provide updates about when events and activities will resume as information becomes available.
All public recreational access to the CREW trails is currently open. In other words you can still go out to hike, bike and enjoy your favorite outdoor CREW activity at any of the four CREW trail systems. However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend users monitor the open/closed status of the CREW trails. Information about any changes to public access to CREW trails for recreation will be communicated to the public as it develops.
The latest land management information from the South Florida Water Management District and any changes related to the COVID-19 will be available at sfwmd.gov.
The CREW Trust partners, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), continue to be in close communication with the Governor’s Office, the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the most recent COVID-19 status and guidance. For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 866-779-6121 or emailing COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. The call center is available 24 hours a day. Updates are also available on Twitter and Facebook.
For us, it’s a much needed break from our season schedule. We’re off scouting new trails, leading a few field trips and heading off on vacations. Summer is slow for us, which can be frustrating for people trying to reach us in the office (where we rarely are) or via email (which we don’t answer on vacation). Because of this, check out our answers to a few summertime Frequently Asked Questions.
Why aren’t there any guided walks scheduled during the summer?
The majority of our visitors are seasonal, but that isn’t the only reason why we offer our guided walks November-April. Those months are also when most of our volunteers are here and we depend on their expertise and generously donated time to lead those hikes. Other reasons are trail conditions and weather. With storms almost every day, lightning is a big deterrent for us scheduling programs during the rainy season. And the trail conditions vary daily and can be wet, muddy, have tall grass – or all of the above.
What are you doing this summer?
Everything we can’t do during season. We are planning next year’s programs, working on reports, and creating new programs for our volunteers, local students and visitors. We’re also doing some major projects. Last summer we walked the first potential Flint Pen Strand trail once a month to monitor how deep the water will get (waist deep for those of you that are curious). This summer we are hard at work re-routing a section of that proposed trail, installing trail markers, improving trail conditions and scouting out additional trails so that everything is ready to go when the South Florida Water Management District opens the trail.
The grass is getting long. When will you mow the trails?
This one is a VERY frequently asked question. We, meaning the CREW Trust staff and volunteers, do not mow the trails. The trails and surrounding land are managed by the South Florida Water Management District. So why is the grass long? There are two main reasons. First, mowing is not a land management priority. Now that some of the rain has come, our land managers are working to complete prescribed burns before the land gets really wet. They are also working on other land management projects that take up their time. The second reason is that, as the water levels rise, the ground gets softer. As we head further into rainy season, the mowers will not be able to get back into the trails without getting stuck. That is the case now in sections of the Cypress Dome Trails, and will be soon in sections of Bird Rookery Swamp. Remember, the land is there for water first, wildlife second, and our enjoyment third.
I saw game camera pictures on your website but when I visited I didn’t see any animals. Why is that?
We didn’t pay the animals that day. Just kidding. Kind of. Part of seeing or not seeing animals has to do with the time of day you are on the trails. Early morning or late evening is best, and when you want to hide from the scorching hot inferno of mid-day SWFL summer, the animals do too. The other part is simply luck. We do see more animal tracks during the summer, and part of that could be because we have less people on the trails, or because some of the areas that the animals frequent have too much water so they are looking for dryer areas. Or maybe they finally got our check cashed.
I can’t do (insert favorite thing) on the trails because of trail conditions. When will I be able to do (insert thing)?
Think of this disruption of your favorite thing on the trails (walking disrupted by boot-sucking mud, biking disrupted by long grass) as an opportunitiy to try something you haven’t tried before. Head out with your friend and wade through the Wild Coffee Trail at the Cypress Dome Trails. Slosh along the edge of the marsh at the CREW Marsh Trails and use a field guide to identify all of the blooming wildflowers. Grab a kiddo (or just be a kid at heart) and take photos and identify all the tracks in the mud at any of the trails. Pretty soon rainy season will be over, the water will go down and the mud will dry up and you can go back to your normal favorite trail activities.
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!
The entire 12-mile trail is clearly marked with letters to help you gauge your distances. The Purple trail connects CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail to the CREW Flint Pen Strand trails. The Purple trail distance is 3.1 miles to the main parking lot at CREW Flint Pen Strand starting from the intersection above point E. The Purple trail is currently dry.
Be aware that alligators will warm themselves on the trail. Please do not attempt to force them to move when you pass.
The Red, Yellow, Blue and Orange Trails experienced wildfire (3/26/22) and the SFWMD are in the process of repairing the firebreaks.
Check HUNT DATES. Hunting takes place north of CREW Flint Pen Strand trail systems. Please stay on the designated trails. The trails are narrow and winding with some sand and roots/rocks.
Trail distances are calculated from the Main parking lot. The Purple trail hike is 3.1 miles to CREW Bird Rookery Swamp and 3.1 miles back. If you choose to hike the “loop” of CREW Bird Rookery Swamp trail, you will add 7.5 miles to your distance.