Safety Council

Engage Estero Safety Council is made of volunteers serving as a voice for the citizens of greater Estero on safety and transportation priorities and issues. We advocate for related solutions to Village, County, and State Government organizations.

Latest news…
Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero By Contributing Author, Mark Novitski, and Engage Estero Consultant.  Everyone has their definition of what determines road safety or, conversely, what makes our roads unsafe. In writing extensively about Corkscrew Road, I have...

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Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comprtroller Kevin Karnes is now offering an alert notification system for Lee County property owners to reduce fraud. When you sign-up, if a deed, mortgage, or other non-Court official record is recorded in your name, you will be...

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Environment Council

Engage Estero Environment Council is a volunteer group focusing on improving water and air quality and mitigating and eliminating the effects of climate warming in greater Estero.

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Health Council

Engage Estero Community Health Council comprises health* and safety-minded volunteers who think about community health comprehensively with a common desire to improve the overall health of the citizens of greater Estero.

Latest news…
Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

The facts Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 300,000 lives annually. Approximately 95 percent of SCA victims die before they reach a hospital or receive medical attention. How Can We Help Reduce This...

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Education Council

Engage Estero mobilizes volunteers in our schools, sponsors scholarships, and promotes the involvement of the community through announcements and public forums.

Latest news…
Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

By Mike Wasson, Director, Engage Estero The Village of Estero Council issued a Proclamation its Meeting on Wednesday, March 6th honoring 39 Estero High School Students who were presented the Cambridge Outstanding Learners Awards. In his remarks, Jon McLain, Village of...

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Updates on Issues of Impact

Engage Estero believes the best way to get a community involved is to make sure they are aware of the issues impacting their future, and know how to impact those decisions before they are made. We conduct and publish original research and articles aimed at getting residents Engaged.

River Oaks Preserve – Estero’s Natural Gemstone

It’s Thursday morning and Florida Gulf Coast University students are arriving at River Oaks Preserve to earn required Service-Learning hours. They are greeted by a volunteer who quickly puts them to work. Today, the ground is moist from a soaking rain, so students will be installing native plants in selected areas. They pull exotic weeds first, observe a planting demonstration, and then plant spider lily, spartina, pond cypress, mulberry, swamp dogwood, blue-eyed grass, purple lovegrass and more.

After the Village of Estero purchased the 10-acre parcel in May 2022, it selected The Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, a local chapter of the statewide Florida Native Plant Society, to manage it along with an adjacent two-acre right-of-way. One goal of the project is to restore and maintain valuable native Florida habitat for the enjoyment of Village residents. Additionally, a native plant nursery offers exciting new landscaping options for homeowners. The parcel, which is bisected by the north branch of the Estero River, also allows for better stormwater management.

Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper

During the last sixteen months, the all-volunteer, non-profit chapter supervised the removal of invasive and exotic plants, established electrical service and a solar-powered irrigation system, set up retail and propagation nurseries, started a long-term planting program to restore natural habitats, mapped gopher tortoise burrows, and secured nearly $27,000 in USDA government funding.  More than 157 volunteers made this happen. Of these, 97 were university students, who contributed 569 of the total 6,200 hours logged by volunteers.

Why is this important?

Once our sliver of paradise is paved over and developed, we, along with all the other creatures here, lose the real Florida. This is especially true because so many of our developments use non-native plantings that do not support the pollinators, birds, bunnies, and other wildlife that once abounded in south Florida. Natural areas are also essential for human beings.  Spending time in them has been linked to a host of benefits including improved cognition, better mental health, and increased empathy and cooperation. And who doesn’t need more of that!

So, what can you do?

Well, you can sit in your armchair and complain about overdevelopment, or you can make a difference. Get outside and discover the real Florida. The real Florida has mature pines and massive live oak trees populated with resurrection fern and air plants.  The real Florida also has small trees, shrubs, and ground covers that provide even more nesting sites, berries, seeds, and nectar for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. 

Why not make space in your own yard for a bit of real Florida? While you are at it, encourage your HOA to set aside natural areas. Bring pictures of your yard or common space to the nursery at River Oaks Preserve and talk to the volunteers. They will provide free landscaping assistance and help you select plants to create the look and features you want. They will also refer you to other native plant nurseries in our area for a wider selection of plants.

If you have more time, join the group of volunteers at the Preserve. Or even better, get another volunteer organization involved. There is so much to do and you will make lots of new friends.

What does the future hold for River Oaks Preserve?

The development of River Oaks Preserve is at a very early stage. Although the site is currently home to gopher tortoises, eastern cottontail rabbits, squirrels, a few bird species, and at least one bobcat, it has the potential to sing and buzz with life as additional native plants are installed.  As these “demonstration gardens” mature, residents, students, landscapers, and other visitors will experience the amazing aromas of fiddlewood trees, sweet acacias, simpson stoppers, and little strongbacks along with the beauty of southwest Florida birds and butterflies. They will delight when the Jamaica caper trees or the scarlet hibiscus bloom. Where can you go to see that?

The master plan also includes small buildings to provide classroom space and necessary storage for tools, equipment, and supplies. These will replace existing storage containers and provide facilities for educational programs. Want to explore like Ponce de Leon? Teach a class? Brainstorm with other volunteers? Take your youth group on a field trip? All of this will be possible.

Preserving this sliver of land benefits area residents along with the environment. The Preserve is a priceless resource, and it is right in the center of Estero. Kudos to the Village of Estero leadership for preserving this pristine land and for engaging an all-volunteer organization like The Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society to manage it in the best way possible.

River Oaks Preserve is located at 9541 Broadway Ave E. It is open to the public on Sundays and Tuesdays from 9-1, or by appointment only. The Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society is a 501(C)(3) organization established in 2001. Their mission is to preserve, conserve, and restore native plants and native plant communities of Florida. Visit www.FNPSCoccoloba.org for more information.

 

Captain Codty Pierce, The Calusa Waterkeeper

  Be Informed,
Get Engaged,
and Make an Impact!