provided to Santiva Chronicle
While the SCCF Nature Center is being renovated, the organization is taking the opportunity to carry out a Trail Reinterpretation Project on the adjacent Erick Lindblad Preserve. This 212-acre preserve boasts 4+ miles of walking trails that remain open during the renovations.
The trails are notorious for their serenity, biodiversity, observation tower, and amazing views of the Sanibel River. In September, SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera hired Justin Proctor, who has an M.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University, as a Special Projects Manager and asked him to oversee the trail project.
“Justin has worked extensively across the Americas as a scientist, educator, and conservationist, and is a great fit for this project,” said Orgera. “These trails are a key early component to SCCF’s history. We are taking the time to really enhance the experience and education they offer.”
Proctor, who moved to Sanibel with his wife, Marisol, in the spring of 2018, has become deeply attached to the ecological value of the trails.
“What makes this trail network special is how incredibly wild it is,” says Proctor. “As soon as you step out there, you’re in the heart of our island’s best natural landscapes. You can’t help but want to walk along slowly and quietly in anticipation of what wildlife you might find around the next corner. Our goal with this project is to keep that ambiance, but improve the educational impact of the experience.”
Some of the many planned improvements include: 1) new, engaging interpretive signage along all of the trails; 2) new, easy-to-interpret maps at major trail junctions, as well as low-impact modifications to these junctions to facilitate smoother navigation and 3) new structures and upgrades to existing structures that will offer better viewing and connectivity with the wildlife and landscapes.
Proctor adds, “While on the one hand we’re thinking hard about innovative ways to engage new generations of trail users, on the other hand we are also interested in keeping the history of these trails alive. A highlight of this project has been meticulously reading through older accounts of these trails to see what features were exciting when the trails were first created in the 1970s, and then finding ways to keep those elements alive.”
Sanibel enthusiasts might be familiar with the George R. Campbell’s 1978 book, The Nature of Things on Sanibel, in which Campbell devotes a chapter to describing these very same trails, entitled, “A Day in the Life of the SCCF Wetlands Sanctuary.” From detailed descriptions of specific strangler fig trees to precise measurements of tiny sand mounds created by antlions on the forest floor, Campbell doesn’t miss a thing along the way.
“Campbell claimed—and I believe him—to have walked 350 miles on our trails over the course of two years because of his ceaseless fascination with what he’d find out there. I think that’s a great depiction of how easy it is to become enamored with the plant and animal life along these trails, and our hope is that you will share the same feeling when you’re out there,” says Proctor, with a smile.
When you come out to walk the SCCF trails, be sure to pick up a current map from the kiosk area at the entrance to the trails. These maps are being updated continuously as modifications to the trails are being made. Please also visit our website for updates.
Proctor is excited about what’s to come.
“We have a lot of really neat ideas that will be materializing over the coming months, and we are very much looking forward to sharing those with our community. Thank you for your patience as we see these projects through to completion,” he adds.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. Learn more at sccf.org.