Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Suntree Property Tour

Anita invited me out today to take a look at the Suntree Property that we would like to include as a research site for our follow up project after Costa Rica.  When I spoke to our group about the possibility of using the project, the biggest concern was the safety of the camera traps, so I paid special attention to fences and gates.  The first gate was unlocked, but looks like it could be secured during the study.  
There was another fence inside of that, and again it looked like it could be easily secured.  
I went out with a camera and a notebook,  but I should have worn long pants, the grasses were quite high.  The county used to mow the area, but they stopped when they considered putting it up for sale.  Wouldn't this be an interesting succession study? 
It is hard to see what the property really looks like in a photo, but it is technically a Rapid Infiltration Basin (RIB).  My understanding is that it was left undeveloped to act as a reservoir for water during storms.  The last time it was used was during Tropical Storm Fay which was in 2008.  There are 6 large basins of equal size laid out in a grid.  Around each basin is a raised area where the gopher tortoises prefer to burrow.  
I counted 35 burrows while we were there, though we only walked around the edge of half of the 114 acres.  
I made sure to get a photo of any gates or breaks in the fence.  This was the first one I noticed.  It is still behind the wooden fence, but looks like it could easily be closed and locked.  
In some areas the fence backed right up to backyards, but for the most part there was a buffer of scrub and trees.
So many burrows!
It looked like there were some paths that the county used when it came in to maintain the land.
And still more burrows.....
 Another break in the fence...
More paths for vehicle access....
Several miscellaneous plumbing fixtures.
A giant burrow!
One more gate.
A very large stack of plumbing that apparently sprung a leak recently and had to be repaired.
Several signs warning of reclaimed water.
This was my interesting find of the day.  I was concerned about a break in the fence,  though it seemed to back up to trees and scrub.
I thought there might be a path though, so we followed it through.
And popped out in someone's back yard.  This is apparently the easement that the county used to access the property.  Anita thinks it would make a great access point for a walking trail.
Finally we made it all the way down to the other end of the property.  Anita has so many plans as to how to put this land to use for education and preservation in both the long and short term.  I am a bit more focused on the short term goals of security and study, but I am so glad that here energy and enthusiasm are driving this project.

Friday, July 17, 2015

New Opportunity?

On Tuesday I was invited to a ladies luncheon.  Just a bunch of teachers on summer break getting together to socialize and catch up before school starts again.  Linda, my next door teacher, wanted to make sure that I heard Anita's story.  Anita retired a few years ago and has recently been on a quest.  There is an undeveloped plot of 114 acres near her neighborhood in Suntree, which is just north of where I live.  The county recently realized that it was worth quite a bit of money if sold to a developer, though the only access point was at the end of a cul-de-sac on a single unbuilt lot.  So Anita got busy and started to gather support to petition the commissioners NOT to build on the land.  When I talked to her on Tuesday, they had officially voted against selling the land, but were looking for ideas as to what to do with it instead.  So Anita has developed a five year plan as to how to use the 114 acre plot of land as a site for conservation and education.
It turns out that this land is absolutely full of gopher tortoises.  Gopher Tortoises!  What a coincidence I remarked, because I am part of a group of teachers traveling together to Costa Rica very soon, and our plan is to use our knowledge to study the burrowing activity of Gopher Tortoises when we get back.  Such a small world!  I am hopeful that we will be able to use this land as a second study site.  Right now there is someone who has offered to look at requirements for permitting and find a biologist who would be willing to work with us.  

Planning Progress

 We were able to get together as a team and do some planning for camera trap deployment while we are in Costa Rica.  This was the first version.  We tried to represent different ecosystem types throughout the preserve.
Then we started to worry about how accessible all of these areas would be in the limited time available to us for working on our individual project while we are there.  So we moved everything in just a bit closer, just in case.  Hopefully, once we are there, we will be able to hit the ground running.