Calusa Land Trust and
Nature Preserve of Pine Island

Our Preserves

Calusa Island Preserve

The Calusa Island Preserve consists of the west half of Calusa Island located just across Jug Creek from the mainland north end of Pine Island. The Island was once the site of a Calusa village. The mangrove portion of the island was the founding donation to the Calusa Land Trust given in 1976 by Fred and Diane Johnson. The 60-acre preserve is largely mature Black Mangrove forest with an 8-acre central tropical hardwood hammock. The central upland is a shell mound created by the Calusa over many centuries of feasting on the then abundant conch, clams and oysters. The Calusa Land Trust shares ownership of the of the island with residents Bill Spikowski, Alison Ackerman and Ed Chapin, all three early and continuing active participants as board members of the Trust. Visitors to the Island are welcome to visit and walk the trails of the island, but are asked to respect the privacy of the residents.

Dean Preserve

This preserve covers the eastern tip of Bocilla Island in downtown Bokeelia. Edd and Deanna Dean, who live in the house just to the west of the preserve, own the property. They created the preserve by donating a conservation easement to the Calusa Land Trust. The easement prohibits development of the property and ensures that the scenic mangrove backdrop to downtown Bokeelia will be preserved in perpetuity.

 

Big Jim Creek Preserve

The Big Jim Creek Preserve is the primary conservation area for the northern end of Pine Island. Together with land owned by Lee County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Big Jim Creek Preserve protects most (but not all) of the northwest tip of Pine Island. Big Jim Creek was the first major land acquisition of the Trust following its reorganization and expansion in 1990. The 325-acre preserve is largely mangrove forest habitat with some central tidal salt flats. The preserve is interspersed with some thirty acres of creeks and bays, providing over five miles of canoeable shoreline. The preserve is a haven for colonial birds such as ibis, egret, roseate spoonbill and heron, and is a rich nursery for all manor of marine life from microscopic phytoplankton to porpoise. Access to the Big Jim Creek area is provided through Fritts Park, which was opened in late 1995. Fritts Park is two and one-half acres of scenic uplands (a former mango grove) which serve not only as a park but also a canoe launch from which one can explore the Preserve. The Park is located adjacent to the south edge of the Pink Citrus Mobile Home Park in Bokeelia. Turn west from Stringfellow Road onto Beach Daisy Lane to proceed directly into the Park.

The Fritts Park Canoe Trail from Fritts Park to Big Jim Creek has been mapped and marked by Calusa Land Trust volunteers Organized canoe trips are scheduled frequently—check The Pine Island Eagle for announcements, or you can go on your own. Take a copy of our canoe trail map with you.

The Park is dedicated to the memory of Walbridge Otto (Bill) Fritts, who was an active environmental journalist in Southwest Florida for more than twenty years. He and his widow, Peg Fritts, owned the historic cracker home as well as the Pine Breeze Native Plant Nursery adjacent to the Park for 40 years. The Park is an excellent picnic and community meeting area. It has hosted music festivals, community celebrations, and numerous campfire discussions by the Calusa Land Trust and other groups. Future plans include more landscaping and a possible outdoor pavilion to support youth and other group activities..

Kreie Island Preserve

Kreie Island, separated from the mainland portion of the preserve by the narrow mangrove canopied Post Office Cut, contains a remarkable and rare three acre tropical hardwood hammock in the middle of a mangrove forest that is home to a large diversity of plant life. The property was purchased by means of a bargain sale thanks to the generosity of Rosalie and Herbert Kreie, long time former residents of Pine Island. The 67-acre parcel also includes another smaller upland ridge. There is a primitive trail leading to the tropical hammock from the cut between Little Bocilla Island and the Kreie property. There is a picnic table, and a nature trail around the perimeter of the trail. The CLT land steward volunteers are in the process of clearing the exotic vegetation from both upland sites. Guided tours are available.

Baxley Preserve

In 1998, Joe and Judy Baxley donated this property, which totals some 5.4 acres, to the Calusa Land Trust for conservation. It is located at the end of Redwood off Woodstock on the southeast side of Pine Island near Pine Island Creek and includes three-quarters of an acre in pine flatwoods, a transition zone, and mangroves. It was appraised at $30,000 but its value to the environment is much more than that sum would indicate. Joe Baxley teaches the fifth grade at Pine Island Elementary and leads his class on an annual (and extremely popular) tour of Calusa Land Trust and other conservation areas on Pine Island.

Calusa Canal Preserve

The Pine Island Canal is known the world over as one of the few aboriginal transportation canals. The Canal, located in Southwest Florida, extended from northwest Pine Island, at the archaeological site known as Pineland, eastward across Pine Island, across Indian Field Island, to meet up with Matlacha Pass. While the existence of the canal was widely known, its exact route and method of construction had never been documented.

Frank Hamilton Cushing, a noted anthropologist, stopped at Pineland, then known as Batty's Landing, in 1895 and 1896 on his way to his explorations at Key Marco. He described the canal as extending to the east from the "water court" and was about thirty feet wide and about five feet deep.

In July 1995, George Luer and Ryan Wheeler enlisted the aid of various volunteers to assist in the solution of the undocumented past, and to explore it's preservation. They started at the eastern end of the canal where there is evidence that a dwelling had been constructed directly over the canal. While there was evidence of the canal through the salt flats to the east, it's lack of access eliminated this site from consideration as a publicly owned site.

They then proceeded to a site on Meadow Lane, off of Harbor Drive, where it was ascertained that there were six parcels that contained evidence of the canal in a west to east direction. These parcels, all at least one acre in size, were individually owned. It was decided to nominate these parcels to the Calusa Land Trust and Nature Preserve of Pine Island, Inc. (CLT) for purchasing and preserving. At a subsequent meeting the CLT voted to purchase one or more of these parcels as they became available.

In the meantime, George and Ryan continued to investigate the construction of the canal. In an article in the September, 1997 issue of the Florida Anthropologist, Vol. 50 No. 3, they concluded that the canal was not a simple or casually-dug "ditch". They determined that careful planning and intensive effort went into its construction and maintenance. They indicated that the engineering had taken into account minute changes in the topography and that the builders had used ground water, along with the summer rains, to provided water for the canal. They also determined that the canal had been made up of segments of a constant elevation. Other considerations are included in the article.

Subsequently, the CLT obtained an "Option to Purchase" the parcel located at 6450 Meadow Lane for the sum of $12,000. The donation drive started in December, 1998 and sufficient funds were received to allow for the deed transfer to take place on August 20, 1999. Another "Option to Purchase" was obtained on September 26, 1999 to purchase the parcel located at 6330 Meadow Lane for the sum of $15,000. Sufficient funds were received for the deed transfer to take place on July 13, 2000.

Since the purchase of the second canal parcel attempts have been ongoing to find another parcel to purchase at "market value". The CLT will continue its efforts to find another parcel to further preserve the remnants of this remarkable canal.

 McCardle Island Preserve

McCardle Island is a beautiful 51-acre mangrove island in Matlacha Pass south of the bridge. The Kim Evans Family donated the island to the Trust in 1991. Shortly thereafter, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission claimed ownership under a theory that harks back to the days of Florida as a territory (the U.S. Government claims McCardle Island was not properly transferred when the State of Florida was created). The Government has not acted on its claim, and Lee County land records continue to show the Trust as the owner. Because of the adverse claim, the Trust collected on the title insurance and used the funds on other preservation purchases. So—while, title to the property is in dispute, the bottom line is that McCardle Island has nonetheless been preserved and the Trust and all Pine Islanders continue to enjoy the benefits of the Evans Family donation.

Dobbs Preserve

The Dobbs preserve consists of 70 acres purchased from Herbert and Edna Dobbs by the Calusa Land Trust in 1999 and an adjacent 20 acres in conservation easements held by Lee County. The preserve lies between the Tropical Homesites development and Matlacha Pass. The Calusa Land Trust has cleared the small upland portion of invasive Australian pine and Melaleuca. There is more exotic vegetation removal that needs to be done in the transition zone between the privately owned upland border and the mangroves that make up the bulk of the preserve.

Underhill Creek Preserve

Our only preserve in Cape Coral, the Underhill Creek preserve is on the east side of Matlacha Pass, just south of where the power lines cross from the Cape Coral mainland over to Master’s Landing on Pine Island. The 80 acre parcel of mangroves bordering on Matlacha Pass was the only remaining unprotected parcel on the south west tip of the Cape Coral mainland that was not a part of the State Buffer Preserve. The scenic Underhill Creek provides a way to make a very interesting canoe or kayak trip.

St. James Creek Preserve

The St James Creek Preserve is the primary conservation area for the southern end of Pine Island. It constitutes the entire mangrove fringe from the St James City Post Office to the Eighth Avenue Canal, as well as a large tract of prime Southern Florida flatwoods. The Preserve provides a perfect habitat for an incredible variety of Pine Island wildlife. It also plays an important if not critical role in the pristine air we enjoy on Pine Island and serves as a filter between development and the waters of Matlacha Pass and San Carlos Bay. The St. James Creek Preserve includes the 50 acres donated by and the 320 acres purchased from The St. Jude Harbor Corporation, the 55-acre Castille Corridor. With the 118-acre Eagle Preserve (owned by Lee County), a total of 543 acres of environmentally sensitive property that will be preserved forever.

St. Jude Nature Trail

The jewel of the St. James Creek Preserve is The St. Jude Nature Trail. Enter the approximate one-mile round trip trail at the marked mailbox on Stabile Road (off Laratonda) and see Southern Florida as it once was. The trail begins in flatlands and passes through a mangrove forest. All vegetation on the trail, which is still being restored, is native to this area. Interestingly, the trail is built on an old roadbed constructed several decades ago by the St. Jude Harbor Corporation as part of an intended "St. Jude Parkway." The "Parkway" was to be a boulevard lined with shopping centers and restaurants leading to a skybridge connecting Pine Island to Punta Rassa at the north end of the Sanibel Causeway. Fortunately, the permits were withdrawn before further damage to the mangroves occurred.

Eagle Preserve

The Eagle Preserve is owned by Lee County but forms a part of the St. James Creek Preserve and is managed by both the County and The Calusa Land Trust. The Calusa Land Trust was instrumental in securing state funds for the purchase of the property. Rich Larkin, a Pine Island real estate broker and past Calusa Land Trust president negotiated the complicated purchase and donated his commission to the Trust. The 118-acre preserve is located between The St. James City Post Office and Castile Road and consists mainly of flatlands with cabbage palms, slash pines, and saw palmetto. The Preserve is home during the winter to a pair of nesting bald eagles, who in early 1998 were noted feeding an unknown number of eaglets. A fence around the preserve protects the eagles, which can be seen soaring over the southern end of Pine Island most winter days. Calusa Land Trust volunteers are developing a nature trail in the preserve and guided tours are being planned.

Galt Nature Preserve

This is one of our most recently established preserves. The southern portion of 56 acres was purchased by Lee County in September 2002 with $145,000 in funds provided by the Lee County Conservation 20/20 Program and $55,000 in funds provided by the Calusa Land Trust ($32,550 of which was reimbursed by the residents of the Galt Island area). The northern 110 acres was purchased earlier in 2002 for $480,000, of which the Trust provided $10,000. The preserve will be managed jointly by Lee County and the Trust. The preserve has hiking trails, which venture through a mix of pine flatwoods, mangroves, saltwater access, and a brackish lake. 

Back Bay


The186 acre Back Bay preserve is located at the southeast corner of Pine Island between the Eighth Avenue Canal and San Carlos Bay, just west of a section of the Florida State Buffer Preserve. The 1996 purchase required use of the emergency fund of the Land Trust. A successful fund drive conducted by the master fundraiser, Norm Gowan, which culminated in a party and boat tour through the property, enabled the Emergency Fund to be quickly replenished in short order. The area is mostly mangrove with beautiful bays and creeks that provide excellent opportunities foe canoeing and kayaking.

York Island

In January 1998, the Calusa Land Trust, together with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, happily announced that they had jointly obtained an option to purchase and preserve York Island. The uninhabited but environmentally sensitive 200 acre island on the southwest side of St. James City had been threatened with development and was listed for $400,000. The purchase price was $225,000 with the Calusa Land Trust promising to provide ten percent. A special fundraising effort was launched to raise the necessary funds. The island is mostly mangroves, containing some of the largest black mangroves in the area. It also has a tropical hammock of gumbo-limbo, sea grape, and Jamaican dogwood on a sand and shell ridge on the south side. It is home to countless wading birds and other wildlife and an important fish nursery. The island has been referred to as "one of the rarest and most endangered habitats in Southwest Florida." This purchase constitutes a very important milestone in Pine Island conservation and is the result of years of work by the two organizations. Former President and Board member Rick Moore of St. James City led the effort for the Calusa Land Trust.

Long Cut Preserve

This preserve consists of 243 acres of sparse mangrove islands which constitute the western side of St James City, The Calusa Land Trust and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation jointly purchased the property in September 2000, each party contributing $65,000. The property is interlaced with magnificent paddling trails under the mangrove canopy.

 Merwin Key Preserve

A 48-acre mangrove and upland island preserve off the southeast coast of St James City. The northern 40 acres has long been a part of the Matlacha Pass National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is administered by the “Ding” Darling NWR. The southern 8 acres, however, was seriously threatened with development until purchased by the Calusa Land Trust in November 2000. The island now forms a chain of some 18 preserved environmentally sensitive islands in Matlacha Pass, most of which are part of the Matlacha Pass NWR.

Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve

This preserve consists of 92 acres of really great hiking trails (old logging roads) through all native pine flatwoods with slash pine, eastern longleaf, palmetto, and lots gopher tortoises and wildflowers. The preserve was established in 2002 by the Lee County Conservation 20/20 Program with assistance from the Calusa Land Trust, and will be jointly managed.

Willow Lake Preserve

Only 3 acres now, but hopefully to be much bigger some day. Willow Lake is a seasonal fresh water lake with a very large outcrop of willow trees, plus extensive live oaks heavy with bromeliads. It has nine different documented types of habitats in a half-mile area and has the potential of becoming a scrub jay habitat. We purchased the three acres on the north side in 2001 to get our feet in the door, and hope to expand to the south.