Volunteers Pat Mauriello and Mackenzie Doyle enjoying their day of hard work in the preserve

Volunteers Pat Mauriello and Mackenzie Doyle enjoying their day of hard work in the preserve

There is a flurry of activity on the east end of Broadway Avenue. Have you noticed it? 

In May, the Village of Estero purchased a 10-acre parcel situated between Cascades, Rookery Point and Country Creek, known as River Oaks Preserve. The Village then contracted with the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society to manage the property, along with the easement to the west. Since the beginning of July, the Florida Native Plant Society has been clearing, surveying and developing a plan for this land. 

Very soon, this area will become a hub of activity for volunteers to learn about local ecology and Florida’s natural landscape. Estero residents will be able to learn how to improve their yards and their community’s common areas to add butterfly and bird attracting vegetation. Plus, native plants will be available for purchase right here in Estero! 

You may remember the Florida Native Plant Society from pre-pandemic days at Koreshan State Park. Every Sunday their volunteers were at the farmers market explaining how to reduce or eliminate irrigation and help improve our water quality by adding native plants to your landscapes. They had a large supply of plants and expertise on hand. If you bought more than you could carry, they would even shuttle you back to your car on their golf cart. 

During the pandemic, they worked their project in Bonita Springs called Cutting Horse Eco Center. Their demonstration gardens attracted hundreds of butterflies, birds, bunnies and people! With the shortage of native plants and native plant nurseries, Collier County Parks, Fort Myers Beach, Lee County Mosquito Control District and hundreds of others visited there to learn, plan and purchase plants.

Volunteers Philip Buchanan and Merelee Atkinson removing invasive exotic plants

Volunteers Philip Buchanan and Merelee Atkinson removing invasive exotic plants

With the Village’s acquisition of River Oaks Preserve, the plant society is moving to Estero. Soon you will be able to see hundreds of native plants growing in the ground and be able to purchase them and take them home to add to your landscape. The preserve will showcase various landscaping techniques and help area residents design their own ecologically friendly, pollution-avoiding yards full of birds, bunnies and butterflies.

Not only that, but you will be able to walk through a pristine example of the real Florida and learn about improving habitats for endangered species such as gopher tortoises. You will see massive old live oaks and pines, along with ancient saw palmettos. This preserve will amaze visitors! 

Once you visit, you may want to volunteer, too. The Florida Native Plant Society will have plenty of opportunities for volunteers to work alongside its members, FGCU student volunteers and others. Volunteer days are Sundays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Please be patient and respect the work zone until the society is able to safely host visitors. In the meantime, you may contact their experts for a presentation on Natural Landscaping, Butterfly Gardening, or The Importance of Native Plants. For more information, visit the local chapter website at fnpscoccoloba.org or call (239)273-8945

To receive the latest information about Village projects and community activities, go to the Village website and subscribe at estero-fl.gov

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