Lemon Bay Conservancy (LBC) is pleased to announce that work is underway on a habitat restoration design for its Wildflower Preserve, located off Placida Road on the Cape Haze peninsula. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) is providing $200,000 in funding for this design project through its Cooperative Funding Initiative. SWFWMD cooperative funding requires matching funds from the fund recipient and LBC is able to provide its funding share through its purchase costs for Wildflower Preserve.
SWFWMD has engaged Scheda Ecological Associates as the lead contractor for the design effort. Thomas Ries, executive vice president and principal scientist, heads the Scheda team. Tom and Scheda have completed more than 90 restoration and stormwater retrofit projects, restoring over 2,400 acres. They have received numerous local and national awards in recognition of their efforts.
LBC, Scheda, and SWFWMD representatives held a project kickoff meeting in December 2014. The Concept Plan was completed in early April and 30% Design Plans are scheduled for completion in August 2015. A public information meeting is planned for January 2016. The design and permitting effort is scheduled for 100% completion in July 2016.
The land that is now Wildflower Preserve operated as an 18-hole executive golf course from the early 1970s to 2006. After attempts to sell the land to developers ended, Lemon Bay Conservancy successfully negotiated to purchase the property and closed on the sale in September 2010. The 80-acre preserve is an interesting property because it contains a variety of upland habitats along with several freshwater ponds that feed into salt-water Lemon Creek. As Lemon Creek leaves the property, it connects into Lemon Bay.
Since the property’s acquisition, with the help of individual volunteers, community groups, donors, and grant funders, LBC has been converting the land to a nature preserve. Activities have included building trails, removing exotics, creating a butterfly habitat, and improving water quality. A first-of-its-kind research initiative with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has studied juvenile tarpon in the creek system in preparation for enhancing the tarpon habitat in future restoration efforts.
SWFWMD senior environmental scientist Stephanie Powers commented on the value of this habitat restoration project: “By increasing the wetland areas within Wildflower Preserve, restoring more natural water flows, and adding native plantings, the restoration project will improve the quality of water entering Lemon Bay, increase resilience of neighboring communities to the potential impacts of climate change, enhance freshwater and estuarine fisheries, expand wading and shorebird habitat, and improve overall ecosystem function within the Charlotte Harbor watershed.”
The initial concept plans call for tripling the acreage of the existing estuarine wetlands and doubling the freshwater wetland acreage. Design elements include adding new littoral zones to existing creek and pond areas, improving connectivity between wetland areas, removing invasive exotic vegetation, and planting native trees and shrubs.
Following the design phase, SWFWMD has budgeted an additional $550,000 for project construction. LBC is working with SWFWMD to identify additional grant sources to contribute to construction efforts.
Lemon Bay Conservancy is a non-profit, 501 c 3 organization and a land trust which has served the Lemon Bay and Charlotte Harbor area for over 40 years. Besides preserving conservation lands it works to educate the community about natural systems and to advocate for protection of our natural world.
For further information contact the Conservancy office at 941-830-8922 or Stephanie Powers of SWFWMD at (813) 985-7481, ext. 2213. For media inquiries, contact Susanna Martinez Tarokh, Public Information Officer, SWFWMD, at (813) 985-7481, ext. 2008.