CREW Concert Tickets

Who benefits from my donation?

Student groups visiting the CREW trails often express wonder and gratitude for the exposure to water, birds, habitats, trees and plants that we provide. Sadly some of them admit that they’ve never gone on an outdoor hike and some express a little fear. We design activities that they enjoy – teaching them how to use binoculars and spot birds; allowing them to dip net fish and invertebrates which they study through magnifiers before returning them unharmed to their habitats; walking under the canopy of a cypress dome; and investigating the soils of CREW and what it tells us about our environment. Sometimes they get their feet wet but they don’t complain. And by the end of their hike they lose their fear of the outdoors!              

To support and enrich these programs, the CREW Trust has invested in necessary equipment such as binoculars, bird identification books, and dip nets. We handle these items with care and are able to use them for years with different groups. But every year we need to replace some items.

Your purchase of tickets for the 2020 Concert Under the Stars will support these field trip experiences. More importantly, you’re helping us to educate all of our guests on the importance of our watershed and why we need to preserve it for the benefit of all. 

Story of a CREW Partnership: Lighthouse of Collier

Sometimes it takes a new perspective to appreciate the beauty of a place. Recently, one of our partners, Lighthouse of Collier, Center for Blindness and Vision Loss visited CREW as part of our Nature’s Peace program. They made the adventurous trip to the Bird Rookery Swamp trail for a specialty guided walk for their 20 guests, all of whom have visual impairments. Patiently they unloaded from their bus, white canes in hand, taking in the powerful smell of cypress trees and fresh rainfall. 

The weather was perfect for a walk and our hike leader, Doug Machesney and other CREW Trust volunteers were ready with special sensorial things to do, like listening to the blustery wind blowing through the bald cypress trees and passing around sweet smelling exotic flowers. The shedding cypress needles reminded these astute observers of the seasonal changes taking place. Florida’s subtle fall giving walkers the sensation of autumn leaf piles as they crunched their way along the edges of the boardwalk.   

Everyone enjoyed when Doug pointed out the traces of a bear on the handrail. They each took their time running their fingers over the claw marks engraved deep into the boardwalk handrail. Each person helping the next by slowly guiding hands to the indentations. 

Furthering the challenges of some, several of the participants did not speak English. Fortunately, a leader emerged from the group and self-appointed herself as the translator. She listened attentively to Doug’s stories and quietly translated for her friends. At the close of the hike, while everyone loaded back on the bus, she told me, “I’m forever grateful to the people at Lighthouse of Collier. They’ve changed my life, so I try to do everything I can to help others like me.” 

We are also grateful to Lighthouse of Collier for partnering with us years ago so their clients get the opportunity to enjoy all that nature has to offer them at CREW. We’re also very grateful to YOU for making this Nature’s Peace program and all of our other programs possible.

CREW and You, part 5 and 6: WHY and HOW

This is part 5 and 6 of our six-part series on the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the CREW Trust.

The trestle bridge at Bird Rookery Swamp

In our previous posts, we’ve talked about the 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) and the role of the CREW Land & Water Trust.

Our nonprofit is dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of the water resources and natural communities in and around CREW.

We do this through assisting with funding and land acquisition and through environmental education.

At the heart of our WHY is this: we care passionately about the water, the land, and the flora and fauna within the watershed.

We care.

Part of protecting anything, from land to water to animals, is getting people to care. We know that, when someone is out on the trails and learns about how a drop of water moves through the watershed and is filtered by the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh and helps fill our aquifer, we are helping them care about where their water comes from.

When a student learns about the palmetto berries and the bears that feed on them, they have an understanding of why we protect both the berry and the bear and how they (including the human) are all connected in our ecosystem.

Because we know that, when someone cares, they then ask HOW. How can they be part of protecting and preserving water? How can they work towards making sure that our future generations have clean water to drink?

How can they help protect endangered species like the Florida Panther?

game camera image by Tom Mortenson

All of us here at CREW Land & Water Trust – from staff to interns to volunteers and Trustees – we are all part of this nonprofit because at some time, we learned, then cared, then felt called to do something.

And if you have attended a program and learned about the watershed, or wandered the trails and watched a swallow-tailed kite soar overhead, you probably care, too. You are part of our why, and you can be part of our how.

Become a member. Our members help support our environmental education programs, not just through their membership dues, but also through attending our programs as paid participants.

Volunteer. Our volunteers do everything, from trail maintenance and exotic plant removal to assisting with field trips and leading guided walks. We simply could not educate the over 49,000 people who visited the CREW Trails or participated in a CREW Trust program last year without our volunteers.

The reality is, no one person started the CREW Project, and no one person founded the CREW Land & Water Trust. It took a few people caring a lot to start the process of acquiring and preserving land within the 60,000-acre border. Their WHY led to their HOW and it’s up to us to continue and carry the passion they had 30 years ago into the years to come.

Happy Happy Everything


It is with very grateful hearts that we wish you, our friends, members, volunteers and visitors, a very happy New Year.

In 2017 we saw the devastation of wildfires caused by extremely dry conditions followed by a very wet start to rainy season, then flooding followed by Hurricane Irma.

We thank you for your boots and hands. We could not have cleared the Marsh Trails and our office field station without the help of volunteers, trustees, members and FGCU students who showed up with work gloves and rakes and got to work. And while we still have a lot to do, like clearing and re-creating sections of the Wild Coffee Trail, we appreciate all of you that have put in a lot of sweat equity along with us.

When the call went out for financial help so we could purchase additional tools to use to clear trails, our members stepped up. We purchased handsaws, pruners, and more, which were well-used by our clean-up crews and will be used as we start to work on clearing trails in Flint Pen Strand. Thank you for donating in our time of need.

We also thank you for your patience. Bird Rookery Swamp is loved by all of us and is our most-visited trail system. It is still closed for repairs by the South Florida Water Management District, and we truly appreciate everyone’s patience. We know you want it open, as do we – we’ve had to cancel several of our most popular programs as we wait for the trail to dry out so the repairs can continue.

Our wish for you as we enter this new year is happiness, wherever you can find it. Whether it’s in the peaceful sunshine at the top of the observation tower at the CREW Marsh Trails, or tucked in a quiet spot watching butterflies on the Cypress Dome Trails, or even along the boardwalk at Bird Rookery Swamp, we hope you can find peace and happiness somewhere on our trails.

Thank you, again, for all of your support, and all that you do to help the CREW Trust.

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp: Surprises on the tram

Water moccasin with mouth open

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, November 14Tri colored heron at BRS
6:25 am-1:05 pm
“There were all sorts of surprises on the tram. The first was a small flock of Robins that flew into the trees to the west of the gravel path; it was good to see them back. Later, a visitor said he saw another larger flock near marker 5.

Another surprise was the huge number of White Ibis that flew into the trees around the parking lot pond a little before sunrise. They just
kept coming, wave after wave. The total number of individual ibis for the day was 261, and all but nine of those were in that pre-dawn arrival.

Ida at BRS One more surprise was how few gators were present, even into the early afternoon. Ida was in her pond in the afternoon, resting in the water by the culvert (left photo).

Water levels have dropped along the tram — there are only two spots between markers 6 and 3 where walking through the water is still necessary.

Nineteen species of butterflies was also a bit unusual considering the wind. Nine of those species were the little grass skippers who stayed very close to the ground or on Alligator Flag leaves when the sun hit them. One new butterfly species for me was a Fulvous Hairstreak.

The biggest surprise was when I almost stepped on a 3-12 to 4 foot
Water Moccasin in the thigh-high grasses. Each of us was startled and
retreated a bit. A photo of the snake showing his displeasure at being
disturbed is attached.
Water moccasin with mouth open

Pied-billed Grebe – 3
Anhinga – 15
Great Blue Heron – 7
Great Egret – 10
Little Blue Heron – 22
Tri-colored Heron – 3
Green Heron – 4
Black-crowned Night Heron – 8
White Ibis – 261
Wood Stork – 3
Black Vulture – 14
Turkey Vulture – 39
Red-shouldered Hawk – 14
American Kestrel – 1
Limpkin – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 12
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 16
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Eastern Phoebe – 10
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 5
Tufted Titmouse – 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 32
American Robin – 8
Gray Catbird – 13
Loggerhead Shrike – 1
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Yellow-throated Warbler – 1
Palm Warbler – 8
Common Yellowthroat – 2
Northern Cardinal – 3
Common Grackle – 65

Palamedes Swallowtail – 2
Tiger Swallowtail – 7
Spicebush Swallowtail – 1
Ruddy Daggerwing – 2
Gulf Fritillary – 1
White Peacock – 153
Red Admiral – 1
Viceroy – 2
Phaon Crescent – 4
Fulvous Hairstreak – 1
Barred Yellow – 74
Dorantes Longtail – 2
Brazilian Skipper – 23
Eufala Skipper – 3
Least Skipper – 1
Three-spotted Skipper – 3
Twin Spot Skipper – 5
Tropical Checker – 5
unknown skipper – 1

Eastern Pondhawk – 12
Needham’s Skimmer – 1
Blue Dasher – 2
Regal Darner – 1

Gray Squirrel – 1
Raccoon – 1

Alligator – 21
Brown Anole – 2
Green Anole – 1
Water Moccasin – 1
Green Treefrog – 1

By Dick Brewer

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Game Cameras at CREW

Wildlife at CREWdeer and baby

Tom Mortenson, CREW Volunteer

June 30, 2015


I operate five game cameras on trails, roads and edges at Cypress Dome and Caracara Prairie Preserve.  You may have seen one or more of them when hiking trails there.  They are tied to trees, often cabbage palms, or posts where they get a clear view of whatever walks past.

These cameras photograph anything that walks past them, day or night. Since these cameras were installed, they have photographed raccoons, deer, bobcats, wild hogs, panthers, raccoons, turkeys, sandhills, hikers, their dogs, horses, hawks, cows, raccoons, possums, vultures, and more raccoons.  Most of these pictures—at least for animals– were taken at night because that is when wildlife are most active and least likely to encounter humans.

Here are a very few of the many thousands of pictures.  I also share these with FWC and Collier County Conservation Collier in effort to help enhance the monitoring program they established years ago.  These are mostly daylight pictures to capture colors.  Remember that you share the hiking trails of Cypress Dome and Caracara Prairie Preserve with wildlife who call this home.

If you happen to see my game cameras while you are out enjoying the CREW trails please respect the ongoing research by not tampering with them. You can get involved with the CREW volunteer program, or report any suspicious activity by emailing or calling 239-657-2253.


This bobcat has appeared at this location on many occasions.  His coloration is unusually dark.
This bobcat has appeared at this location on many occasions. His coloration is unusually dark.

cow kiss little deer pantherwild hog with babies

I understand that ranchers detest wild hogs because of the damage they do to pastures.  But they are survivors, prey, and I admire their jaunty air.
I understand that ranchers detest wild hogs because of the damage they do to pastures. But they are survivors, prey, and I admire their jaunty air.


This panther has been photographed before, and my photos are mostly at night.  He appears to be well fed.




A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- May 2, 2015

Below are first hand observations from our volunteer Dick Brewer. Who does weekly visits to Bird Rookery Swamp and very week sends us incredible stories of the magical 12 mile loop. If you would like to see more of his observations visit:

barred owl
By Dick Brewer

“Water levels are down more, even after the recent rains. Consequently, gator and wading bird numbers are down too. 

One Roseate Spoonbill spent most of the day at Ida’s Pond, so visitors coming in had a spoonbill, Banded Water Snake, gators, Anhingas, Red-bellied Turtle, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Great Egrets to greet them.

The “hot spot” for the day was past marker 2 where the barbed wire fence ends and a service road splits to the left. There’s a depressionnat the junction of the main tram and the service road where a River Otter spent time catching and eating Crayfish that were left. A young
Barred Owl was in a cypress overhead, and while I was talking with four women who were enjoying the otter and owl, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from behind us. Later, hikers and bikers all commented about the otter and owl, so it was a great day for everyone.

The tram between markers 6 and 3 hasn’t been mowed recently, so the higher grasses are attracting lots of butterfly species, especially skippers”.

By Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, May 2 ~ 7:15 am-1:30 pm

Anhinga – 11
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 6
Snowy Egret – 4
Little Blue Heron – 3
Tri-colored Heron – 1
Black-crowned Night Heron – 3
White Ibis – 1
Roseate Spoonbill – 1
Wood Stork – 8
Black Vulture – 44
Turkey Vulture – 18
Red-shouldered Hawk – 11
Common Ground Dove – 6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Great-crested Flycatcher – 6
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 1
Tufted Titmouse – 7
Carolina Wren – 11
White-eyed Vireo – 14
Northern Cardinal – 23
Common Grackle – 6

Palamedes Swallowtail – 5
Tiger Swallowtail – 1
Zebra Longwing – 2
Ruddy Daggerwing – 7
White Peacock – 58
Red Admiral – 1
Viceroy – 2
Queen – 1
Monarch – 1
Great Southern White – 12
Tropical Checker – 6
Whirlabout – 1
Twin-spotted Skipper – 1
Delaware Skipper – 1

Raccoon – 1
River Otter – 1
White-tailed Deer – 1
Alligator – 84
Brown Anole – 12
Red-bellied Turtle – 7
Banded Water Snake – 1
Pig Frog – 3
Green Treefrog – 5
Cuban Treefrog – 2
Great Blue Skimmer – 1
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Eastern Pondhawk – 85
Gar – 28

 By Dick Brewer

Great Blue Skimmer
By Dick Brewer

12/6 Car Wash to Raise Funds for Bird Rookery Viewing Platform

Eagle Scout candidate Steven Rapp is on a mission. He’s planning to build a viewing platform with handicap accessibility at the Bird Rookery Swamp parking area. His project, called A View for All, includes a flat platform that extends over the pond near the parking lot, providing easy access from the handicap parking spaces onto the platform for visitors with disabilities to be able to get close and view the birds and other wildlife that frequent Bird Rookery.

As an eagle scout candidate, Steven must prepare the design, get all the appropriate permits, recruit volunteers to do the labor, and raise funds for materials for the project.

Part of his fundraising strategy includes a Car Wash scheduled for Saturday, December 6th, 2014 from 8 AM to noon at G’s General Store at the corner of Oil Well Road and Immokalee Road in Naples. The requested donation/cost is $5.00 per car wash.

So, come on out and support this great project and help Steven create “A View for All” at Bird Rookery Swamp!

A View for All Rapp
Description of and rationale for the project by Steven Rapp

A View for All Rapp 1
Platform design

A View for All Rapp 2




New: Self-Guided Tour for the Cypress Dome Trails

Today November 6th 2014 a group of wonderful Florida Gulf Coast Students (FGCU) helped CREW Trust staff install number markers for the first self-guided tour for the Cypress Dome Trails. The FGCU students are currently taking Colloquium with Brenda Thomas (our wildflower expert). Their Service-learning project was to work with CREW Staff to upgrade and clean-up our hiking trails. We had a beautiful morning walking the 6 mile trail completing the yellow, green, and white loop.

Students posing for a picture in the swamp

The Cypress Dome Trails opened in 2008 and since then we have added benches, bird houses, short cuts, and now a numbered self-guided tour. The self-guided tour brochure was also created by a group of FGCU students for their Civic-engagement class. You do not have to do the numbers in order, just have fun reading the descriptions and observe.

Students Putting up a Trail Sign

Now visitors can download the self-guided tour map and brochure by scanning a QR code at the trail head or visiting this link before you hit the trails. Enjoy and discover the Cypress Dome Trails at your own pace.

*Give it a try and tell us what you think by commenting below.

%d bloggers like this: