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Island fudge shop celebrates Christmas in July on Sunday

July 27, 2016
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

There was a small turnout at the Pine Island Public Library for the Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve update plan meeting last Thursday. Jeff Anderson, site manager of the preserve, conducted the meeting.

The 8 parcels that comprise PIFP were purchased beginning in 2000 through Lee County's Conservation 20/20 Program with additional funding from the Calusa land Trust. The preserve is located at 6201 Stringfellow Road, St. James City.

"There have been few changes since 2006 when this was last reviewed," Anderson said. "We've added some land to this preserve but the vision statement is that 'The primary stewardship objective for Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve will be to continue exotic plant control and prescribed fire program which benefit the natural plant communities and listed species utilizing the site.'"

Article Photos

Co-owners Carlos Gomez, left, and William Tidball, center, serve customers.

Photo provided

PIFP contains a total of 919.64 acres purchased in 8 different parcels for a total cost of $9.2 million. The main trailhead entrance is at 6201 Stringfellow Road. The site lies approximately halfway between Pine Island Center and St. James City.

Anderson used an extensive slide show, with aerial photographs, to display the changes that have taken place on the property since 1953.

"The Calusa Land Trust provided funding for some of the parcels," Anderson said. "There have been very few changes since our first aerial photo in 1953. In 1958 there was a small citrus grove inside the preserve area and in the 1970s a small shrimp farm was operating but was gone in a few years. In the 1970s there was significant clearing on the preserve for agriculture and cow pastures."

PIFP is surrounded on three sides with development. Fifth-nine percent of the preserve is categorized as wet flatwoods pine, palmetto habitats that serve as important habitat for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. There are 14 plant communities described by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory.

Nearly all of these plant communities were inundated with exotic species, primarily melaleuca, when the first edition of this plan was written.

"Since that time, all exotic plant monocultures and scattered plants on the preserve have been treated and monocultures have been eliminated," Anderson said. "These plant communities represent the current state of the preserve with native plants taking over."

The preserve is home to many species of birds and animals including gopher tortoises, bald eagles, eastern indigo snakes, wood storks, bobcats and coyotes.

"We've done several prescribed burns in each of the sections of the preserve," Anderson said. "Fire is one of the most effective tools in controlling growth in preserves and an important natural component of pine flatwoods. In addition to our prescribed burns, Florida has more thunderstorm days per year than anywhere else in the country and, in turn, one of the highest frequencies of lightning strikes of any region in the United States."

The preserve currently offers a marked hiking trail, with a small parking area and is available for hiking, birding, nature study and photography. Future plans include an additional hiking trail on the Bayside portion as part of a partnership with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

"This is a perfect rustic trail for people who like to hike through rougher terrain," Anderson said. "Other than possibly adding a small hiking trail we don't have any plans to make any changes or improvements to this preserve."

The management plan is available for review online at

More information and the opportunity to comment on the plan are also available through Lee County Town Hall, or call Conservation Lands Coordinator Anderson at 239-707-0874.



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