Discovering Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park

Florida cinchweed (Pectis linearifolia);
photo by A. Karim
By Annisa Karim

This May, the Florida Native Plant Society's 34th Annual Conference will be held at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers. With the Annual Conference taking place in our backyard, we have the opportunity to give a “behind the scenes” tour of some of our favorite places. As usual, conference organizers have arranged for numerous field trips to take place on the Thursday before and the Sunday after the Conference (May 15th and 18th, respectively). Among these trips is a visit to Lee County’s Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park, which I will lead, alongside notable author Dr. Walter Kingsley Taylor.

Tarflower (Bejaria racemosa);
photo by A. Karim
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park (HCMP) consists of 862 acres and is co-managed by the Lee County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  The Park consists of a mosaic of both human altered and natural land forms. Within the boundaries of HCMP are pine flatwoods, hydric hammocks, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, temperate hardwood hammocks, riparian wetlands, inland ponds, mixed wetland forests, xeric oak, and scrubby pine flatwoods. Hickey’s Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, meanders through the site in a southeast to northwest direction and provides both permanent aquatic habitat and scenic beauty.

Controlled burn; photo by A. Karim
The HCMP area has been identified by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Lee County, and FWC as a “riverine corridor” on wildlife habitat protection planning maps. The site offers refuge for various listed species including the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).

Those in attendance will get to see one of Florida’s most unique plant communities – Florida Scrub.  The walk will take participants through recently burned portions of scrub and compare them to areas that haven’t been burned in years. We’ll note the difference in species composition between the two areas, identify three species of “scrub oaks” typically found in scrub areas, and discover other associated scrub plants.

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Annisa Karim is is currently the Senior Supervisor of Conservation Lands with Lee County's Department of Parks and Recreation.

posted by Laurie Sheldon

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