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Sanibel works to complete marsh restoration

Posted on May 27, 2024

This group is getting its hands dirty while protecting our shores. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation did its marsh restoration project on the island.

The marshes are important as they act as a natural barrier for future storms.

The Gulf Ridge Preserve was one of Sanibel’s worst affected areas by Hurricane Ian. This unique piece of land is a huge sanctuary for tons of wildlife, some of which are super rare.

They too, lost their home during Ian.

“Ian was a game changer. We have hurricanes come through here every now and then, it’s not uncommon, but one like this is what we call the Big One,” said Chris Lechowicz, the SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director.

The 21-acre piece of land owned by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation was home to many wildlife, including the rare rice rat.

“They’re only found here on Sanibel, and this actually section of Sanibel, that’s the only place in the world that they’re found,” said Kealy Pfau, SCCF Coastal Watch Director. “So restoring this habitat is crucial for their survival.”

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

Around 100 volunteers worked hard for four days to restore and rebuild. The project concluded on Thursday.

Five thousand of Spartina marsh and saw grass were planted.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

“It’s hard work, but it’s not hard when you’ve got such good folks to do it with, and you meet a lot of people here, and that’s where connections are made. It’s a great place to network and build community,” Sandy Winans said.

Sandy Winans volunteered to help plant and lives half a mile away from the SCCF property. He knows first-hand what Ian did to Sanibel.

“We’re elated at how quickly Sanibel is returning to some semblance of normalcy. It’s gonna take years, obviously, but there’s so much life in this community already, people and people and natural history,” said Winans.

70% of the island is preserved.

“One of the things that I’m most proud about my community is that we all pull together, we’ve got a heavy stone pushing up a hill, I like to say it’s we’re pushing a rock up a sand hill here on the island. But we all pull together, we all joined in to the fight to rescue recover, and now rebuild the island. And we’re doing this collectively,” said Richard Johnson, Mayor of Sanibel.

The Mayor joined everyone in the fight to give wildlife their homes back. Those who were there Thursday morning said they felt accomplished.

“I mean natural beauty is coming back and it’s it’s an amazingly vibrant place. We’re so glad we’re here,” said Winans.

Everybody needed help on Sanibel; humans and animals.

The restoration mission is not over: the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation told WINK News Reporter Olivia Jean.

On June 5, they hope to plant 3,000 plants in one day, so they need all the help they can get.


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