History of Flint Pen Strand: Part Four

photos by Bill Zaino

by Jayne Johnston, Education Coordinator, CREW Trust

I sincerely hope you enjoyed the previous blogs in this series by our CREW Trust Volunteer, Nan Mattingly, and the people who provided support for the information she shared (Brenda Brooks, Executive Director, CREW Trust; Ben Nelson, CREW Trust chairman.)

Nan did a great job providing an eagle’s eye view of hydrologic restoration. The intent of this final blog in the series is to fill in some of the finer details. I hope as you’re driving to CREW, you take notice of the changing landscape around you, from the developed areas to our conserved and restored lands of the CREW Project.

Sunrise above the lakes at Flint Pen Strand

Let’s start with a liquid water molecule, which is 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. H2O has cohesive properties, meaning the molecules bond tightly to each other. Liquid water molecules condense in the sky (clouds) and fall to the ground (rain). The land absorbs the liquid water through soils, roots, and leaves of plants. Absorption slows as soils become saturated over the rainy season. Molecules in marshes, sloughs, domes, and swamps bond with the falling molecules, volume increases, and water levels rise. Water molecules also interact with our ecosystems through evaporation – water becomes gas (think humidity!) – and transpiration (plant sweat from leaves). There is one state of water that CREW does not experience and one of the reasons so many of us live here and that is its frozen state more commonly known as snow and ice.

Water on the landscape moves from higher elevation (uphill) to lower elevation (downhill). Then gravity plays a role – the important role – of recharging the aquifer by pulling the water through the soils and the porous limestone (percolation) and into the aquifer where it is stored for later use.

Wading birds at the Flint Pen Strand Lakes

Water also moves in the path of least resistance on land. Before development, that would have been along the uneven landscape of rivers, streams, and creeks, created over 20,000 years by a changing climate. Post development – ditches, canals, or channels – were dug to drain water, creating dry land for buildings like where you and I live, work, and play. These paths concentrate the flow of water causing it to move away from the CREW Project. Sometimes this can happen too quickly for contaminants to be filtered, flooding to be controlled, or the aquifer to be recharged and less drinking water for people.

Water that is not absorbed and filtered by the soils, plants, and limestone, or deposited in ditches, canals, or channels, flows across the land in a thin sheet of water (sheetflow), to the Imperial River, then Fish Trap Bay (the southernmost end of Estero Bay) and into the Gulf of Mexico. Even estuaries like Fish Trap Bay and the Gulf of Mexico need freshwater because of the plants and animals living there. When water flows across the landscape, it can pick up speed and contaminants along the way, which is what the CREW Project attempts to mitigate.

Permeable roads allow water to absorb into the ground and flow “downhill”

Wetland restoration improves the functionality of ecosystems of the CREW Project by removing invasives and surfaces like roads that prevent water absorption. Additional benefits are flooding mitigation and wildlife protection. The CREW watershed lands are owned by the South Florida Water Management, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Lee County Conservation 20/20, Conservation Collier, and a few private inholdings. The ownership collaboration is why we call the CREW Watershed the CREW Project. Through these owners, the watershed will remain undeveloped in perpetuity. You can support our collective efforts through memberships and volunteering for the CREW Trust, supporting land purchase opportunities by government and nonprofit organizations, and speaking up on behalf of the land, the plants, and animals, to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens. Thank you for your support!  

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. 

2015-2016 Strolling Science Seminar Series



We have an exciting line up of experts this year. Be sure to sign up in advance on our website by clicking here or selecting the specific event below:

October 10th 2015- Florida’s Fabulous Spiders by Dr. G.B. Edwards

November 13th 2015- Florida Black Bears: The Bear Necessities by Kathleen Smith FWC

December 4th 2015-  Dendrochronology (Tree Coring Science) with Dr. Disturbance by Dr. Win Everham

January 16th 2016- Snake in the Grass: Not Always a Bad Guy by Dr.John Herman

February 6th 2016- Birding with the Master by Dr. Bernie Master

March 11th 2016- Adaptation or Extinction: The Live’s of CREW’s Most Interesting Plants by Jack Berninger

To register, select the event above. To  become eligible to take advantage of the member discount for the Strolling Science Seminar Series go to https://crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com/donate and clickon the DONATE button or call 239-657-2253.

mosquitos of the marsh
SSS with Neil Wilkinson 2015



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