A little more green for Collier: Logan Woods Preserve opens

— Another little piece of native Naples has been preserved.

On Friday morning, Conservation Collier dedicated Logan Woods Preserve, the newest tract of native vegetation to be added to the urban green space. Located at the northwest corner of Pine Ridge Road and Logan Blvd., the seven-acre tract is open to the public for recreation and enjoyment.

“We’re real happy about this preserve,” said Conservation Collier chairman Bill Poteet. “The open spaces we drive by every day are disappearing. We’re trying to protect the habitat of the average Collier resident.”

Logan Woods is the fourth preserve to be opened to the public under the Conservation Collier program. The taxpayer-funded initiative purchased the land for $711,983 in October of 2005. An intensive effort to remove exotic vegetation followed, to bring the heavily melaleuca-infested site back to its natural state.

“We thought we would have to re-vegetate, but it’s restoring itself. The native grasses have been coming back on their own,” said Alexandra Sulecki, the Conservation Collier program coordinator for Collier County. “We got a $34,000 grant from the state of Florida to remove the exotics. This has been a great partnership. We had three different funding sources — county, state, and the University of Florida.”

Though the hum of traffic is clearly audible within the preserve, there is a peaceful feeling once inside, with the road screened by native palms, and the paths underfoot made from the mulched remains of the melaleucas.

Melissa Hennig of the county staff said they had identified 60 different plant species at Logan Woods, with 45 of them being native, then revised the numbers upward when she found one more, a threatened canna lily.

Placards underneath some of the shrubs and trees identify them by both common and botanical names. Slash pine, or pinus elliotti, bald cypress, or taxodium distichum, and beauty berry, or callicarpa americana abound. Lacking a placard, but nonetheless present, toxicodendron radicans, or poison ivy, requires passersby to look where they step.

Poteet has been on the nine-member Conservation Collier committee since its inception in 2003. He and Michael Delate are the only remaining original members of the group.

Conservation Collier has preserved more than 4,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, said Poteet.

“We are leaving a legacy for our children and their children,” he said. “This has been one of the most successful parks in terms of public participation. It seems the surrounding community did not want this tract to go commercial.”

Poteet characterized Logan Woods as a neighborhood park, saying the lack of on-site vehicle parking is offset by a bike rack, and the expectation that most of the visitors will be nearby residents. Cars for those attending the dedication parked around the corner on Sycamore Drive.

Another example of Conservation Collier’s efforts, the $10 million Freedom Park on Golden Gate Parkway, recently celebrated a grand opening on October 6. The 2,500-acre Pepper Ranch near Immokalee is the largest tract the group is preserving.

“The first five years, we were looking for property,” said Poteet. “Now, we’re trying to open reserves.”

He added that additional sites would still be considered, and any citizen is eligible to nominate a property for inclusion in the program.

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