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.

Latest news…
Landmark Victory for Florida’s Future

Landmark Victory for Florida’s Future

Landmark victory for Florida’s future will impact the proposed Bellmar and Kingston Developments, as they cannot receive their permit through Florida’s flawed program. By the Conservancy of Southwest Florida with permission to Engage Estero. February 16, 2024 Federal...

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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.

by Mark Novitski, Consultant to Engage Estero.

Mia McCormick, Advocate, Environment Florida, identifies why we need wildlife crossings:

“Each year, animals at risk of extinction die when cars and creatures collide on Florida roadways. It is the number one cause of death to our endangered Florida panthers. From October 2020 to October 2023, 66 Panthers have died in vehicle collisions. With a population somewhere between 120 and 230, this is a substantial number.”

The numbers prove the need, “Florida ranks 9th in the nation in human deaths caused by wildlife-vehicle collisions. The solution: specially designed overpasses or underpasses that allow wildlife to move freely without interacting with motorists. Studies show that wildlife crossings are the most effective way to mitigate wildlife-vehicle collisions.”

So, what is the best way to protect wildlife and motorists? “While they are no replacement for keeping roadways out of panther habitat, crossing structures are our best chance to connect habitat and reduce vehicle mortalities. Crossings are preferred over signs or other systems that rely on motorist response or slowing their speed,” said Amber Crooks, Environmental Policy Manager at Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/panther/wildlife-crossings/) Conservation Commission has been working to reduce collisions, “Early measures to reduce panther deaths from vehicle collisions included lowering the speed limit at night in critical stretches of highways, widening road shoulders to increase visibility, experimenting with special reflectors intended to make animals wary as headlight beams were reflected in their direction, public information campaigns and rumble strips. Although these measures may have reduced wildlife collisions, they did not eliminate the problem. The most effective but also the most expensive measure was adding wildlife crossings to (roads and) highways.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission works with the Municipality, County, or State Department of Transportation to find locations for wildlife crossings. Once a location is identified, design can begin. “There have been varied sizes and shapes of crossings that have been used, each suited to the particular needs of a specific location. The smallest structures create an opening that is 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and the largest crossings are those on I-75 that are 8 feet tall and 120 feet wide. Some bridges were modified for wildlife movement by providing a path along each waterway bank above the high-water line.”

Wildlife corridors are created to let wildlife move safely from one area to the next. While these corridors are important for allowing large animals such as bears, panthers, alligators, river otters, and bobcats to move freely, smaller wildlife corridors can also be created in our developments and communities.

GROWING WITH NATURE (https://www.growingwithnature.org/wildlife-corridors/) provides a different perspective and outlines why we need wildlife corridors. “To connect different populations of wildlife to support a healthy population. If one pack of coyotes cannot reach another group, they could start inbreeding, making the population unhealthy. However, if the two groups can easily mix back and forth, both populations will be healthy. Even for small animals, this can be important. Wildlife corridors can also connect animals with a broader range of food or water sources, helping their population flourish. And wildlife corridors expand the habitat available to wildlife by letting them access areas they would not normally be able to reach—at least not safely.”

An article published in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Impact of Wildlife Crossing Structures on Wildlife–Vehicle Collisions, (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/03611981221108158?journalCode=trra) concluded the cost of a wildlife crossing (ranged between $500k and $6M) was worth the money, “Using a back-of-the-envelope approach, each wildlife crossing structure yielded annual benefits of $235,000 to 443,000 in 2021 U.S. dollars.”  This calculated the cost of the damage to vehicles, roads, guard railings, fences, etc., compared to the cost of constructing the wildlife crossing.

The best estimate of the cost of the 6-lane wildlife crossing at the curve on Corkscrew Road is $2.5M. This includes directional fencing and an open-air shaft in the Corkscrew Road median to allow light and airflow.

In the greater Estero Area, we have two wildlife (western and eastern) corridors with many wildlife crossings.

The westernmost corridor is still under construction in parts. Wildlife can move from the Wild Turkey Strand Preserve through Lee County-owned property around the airport and under Alico Road with the “to be built” wildlife crossing (Alico Road widening Phase I – Airport Haul Rd to the Alico Road/Green Meadows Road intersection (at the curve), (https://alicoroadextension.com/), through the WildBlue Development with their three wildlife crossings, under Corkscrew Road with the newly built wildlife crossing, through The Preserve at Corkscrew (preserve area), through the River Creek Preserve, into the Larry Kiker Preserve and throughout the Crew Wildlife and Environmental Area including the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Additional wildlife crossings are being discussed in Alico Road widening Phase II as the road will connect from the Alico Road/Green Meadows Road intersection (at the curve) State Route 82.

The fSTOP Foundation’s (https://fstopfoundation.org/) Mission is to positively affect conservation by raising awareness through photography.

The number 3 pin is the current Corkscrew Road wildlife crossing just East of Alico Rd.

We know wildlife crossings are used by wildlife, as shown in the photos below from the fSTOP Foundation.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

(https://fstopfoundation.org/fstops-remote-cameras/) showing tracks in the mud under the newly constructed wildlife crossing.

The eastern wildlife crossing is just beyond Alico Road. This crossing allows wildlife to move through Lee County, Lee County utilities, and other properties under Corkscrew Road and throughout the Crew Wildlife and Environmental Area, including the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Estimating the total acres of land in these two corridors is difficult. Suffice it to say it is a great start to helping preserve our native wildlife. Personally, I am glad we are making wildlife corridors and conservation land for wildlife! I understand the cost and believe in the benefit!

Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) is a “ … 70,000+ acre (https://crewtrust.org/) watershed in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, which owns a significant amount of CREW and manages that land – including the CREW trail systems, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which monitors wildlife and hunting and provides law enforcement. Other partners include Conservation Collier and Lee County 20/20.”

We need to thank the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, Lee County Department of Transportation, Lee County Utilities, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, South Florida Water Management District, Crew Wildlife and Environmental Area, Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and the community developers for working together to make these corridors for wildlife a reality.