Why isn’t Bird Rookery Swamp Open? – and other FAQ’s

Anne here. Yes, that Anne – the one that answers the Facebook messages at all hours of the day and night, the one that chats you up on the phone when you call to ask me if BRS is open. I want to tell you that it’s open – I do. It breaks my heart to know I’m breaking your heart. And when you are mad- and a lot of you are – I want to give you a cookie and tell you it will be okay. Because it will. We’re all just in Bird Rookery Swamp Withdrawal – all of us, even the staff and volunteers.

Of course you can still call me at the office, or Facebook message me – some of you are becoming quite good friends of mine – but in the meantime, here are a few answers to our Frequently Asked Questions about the closure of Bird Rookery Swamp.

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

WHY is Bird Rookery Swamp Closed?

This is an important question, and one we have to address right away. It’s come to our attention thanks to some of the fence-hoppers (we’ll chat about y’all in a hot minute) that the public perception is that the boardwalk is barricaded and big NO ENTRY signs are up because the trails are wet, like they always are this time of year, and we don’t want you to get wet feet.

We love wet feet. And we know our die-hard Bird Rookery Swamp friends do as well.

The trails are wet, just as they always are this time of year – okay, maybe a BIT more wet than usual. But the reason the trail is shut down at the end of the boardwalk is hazardous conditions due to contractors working on the trail to fix washouts.

Working with BIG LOUD DANGEROUS machinery and they can’t see anything around them, so the trail was closed for the safety of all involved.

Why are there so many washouts, and what is a washout?

The trail at Bird Rookery Swamp should not be there.

WHAT?

Bird Rookery Swamp is at the very bottom of the 60,000-acre watershed. And when the area was logged for cypress, the tram was built to hold the railroad, blocking the natural flow of water. Every single year when the water flows south, we have blow-outs on the trail, and we slap a band-aid on (a gravel band-aid) and fill it in, then wait for the next rainy season to blow out different areas.

Add in a hurricane and we’ve got a lot more washouts than usual and some of the old ones became dangerous deep-water crossings. The one by Ida’s pond was waist deep on me (Anne) two weeks after the hurricane and the water was flowing pretty hard as I stood there and tried to trim back part of a tree that fell. 

So. We have washouts. We will continue to have washouts. We just had a lot more than normal this rainy season. And all the washouts need to be repaired so you can hike, bike and enjoy the entire loop.

Why is this taking so LONNNNNNNGGGGG?

Water. The trails are wet. The big, heavy machinery will do a lot of damage to the really wet sections, or get stuck. So wet trail conditions are delaying the project. But every week the contractor is checking on the trails, and it is drying up – so we keep our fingers crossed.

You OTTER be fixing these trails!

Why can’t you just open up the first part? It looks fixed.

Remember how I talked about the heavy machinery? Well, it made deep ruts in that first section, and those need to be smoothed out for the safety of our guests and visitors. And, to get that machinery in, the trails need to dry up.

Also – I, or we, the CREW Trust – cannot open or close trails. The South Florida Water Management District manages the lands within the CREW Project, and most of those are public lands (which is why there is no charge to park or visit the trail). We – the CREW Trust- are the non-profit that provides environmental education for all ages on the trails. We also do our best to raise awareness about the watershed by telling people about the trail systems through Facebook and this website. WE cannot open or close the trails – only the District, our partner agency, can do that.

If I can’t go to Bird Rookery Swamp to ride my bike/hike/walk my dog/take photos of awesome wildlife, where can I go?

There are two trail systems off of Corkscrew Road, just a quick fifteen minute drive east of I-75. The CREW Marsh Trails is the only trail system within the CREW Project that is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, and the Cypress Dome Trails is our least-visited trails BUT has the most active wildlife according to sightings by hikers.

I saw a bear there about two months ago – my first sighting of a bear on one of the CREW Trails. 

You can hike, go birding, walk your dog and/or take photos at either trail system. Bikers, head to the Cypress Dome Trails. 100% of the Marsh Trails are clear, thanks to Jessi and a lot of FGCU student volunteers. The Cypress Dome Trails are mostly clear, except for the Wild Coffee Trail, which is the back part of the white trail. CREW Trust staff and volunteers are slowly clearing that by hand and waiting for it to dry up to continue working.

Can I volunteer and help clean up Bird Rookery Swamp so it gets open sooner?

I wish you could. I wish I could. But the District is in charge of this project, so we respect their closure and try to wait patiently.

If you do like to clear trails, please volunteer! We will have trail clean-ups in preparation for the opening of Flint Pen Strand for the public. We also have a great group of volunteers – please fill out an application if you are interested.

What happens if I just hop the fence?

Well, that’s a bad idea. We’ve already been told of one rescue by Collier County deputies of a hiker who hopped the fence and then needed assistance in the back part of the trails. The District also has signs posted that say the trail is closed; FWC Law Enforcement says it is a $50 fine if/when you are caught.

From a purely personal standpoint – we, your friendly staff at the CREW Trust, worry about your safety. Please respect the closure and try to wait patiently for it to re-open so we can see you soon at our guided walks and programs.

 

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