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Park Transforms Greens into Green Retreat

18 May, 2015

By: SDM Staff

Back in 1960, an 18-hole golf resort called Admiral Lehigh Golf Resort was opened on 213 David Avenue in Lehigh Acres. Unfortunately, the golf course puttered down, and, for a few years, it was abandoned.

In 2008, the site was purchased by Lee County Parks & Recreation which subsequently turned it into the Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park that is today — a great place for walkers, joggers, runners, bicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters and for those in wheelchairs. The half-mile paved multi-use trail encircles a 3-acre replicated prairie with more than 18,000 native grasses and wildflowers.

An article in Florida’s News-Press, the area retains very little of its original character.

“Most people like to walk or hike here in the early morning,” said Jason Lamey-Lee, a County Parks & Recreation senior planner, who explained that the park opens at dawn when the day is still cool. Lamey-Lee added that leashed dogs on the trail are a fairly common sight, as are parents with strollers. There are also plenty of birds, along with an observation area to spot them from.

“I’ve seen cardinals and mockingbirds,” added Lamey-Lee, who said that gopher tortoises and osprey are sometimes seen as are small fish in the water detention area during the rainy season.

Considering that the park offers an outdoor fitness area and picnic pavilions, many come for more than just a walk, bike or hike along the trail.

The idea behind every park has a lot to do with preserving greenery, and this one went a step further. “It’s an eco-park with ecological benefits,” said Betsy Clayton, Lee County communications director.

Clayton explained that the nearest similar facilities include the Caloosahatchee Regional Park with 768 acres of trees, cypress swamps and oak hammocks, along with 20 miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails; and the Wild Turkey Strand Preserve with 3,137 acres with plenty of opportunities for geocaching (using a GPS to treasure hunt), hiking, bird watching, nature study/photography, and picnicking.

Because Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park was turned from a golf course into an eco-park, much of the original topography such as berms, greens and sand traps, was retained. Implementing the golf course features into the park design helped ensure that fewer nonrenewable resources were expended by on-site construction equipment to grade the site.

There are also several manmade rain gardens, or planted depressions, that were designed to help improve water quality by capturing and filtering runoff prior to discharge into Able Canal.

Furthermore, about 90 percent of the site’s existing trees, including pines and sabal palms, were preserved for the park, while the invasive exotic plant species were eliminated. Many native plants were added into the park. Native plants require less water and less care than non-native plants. They are also friendly to wildlife and provide habitat.

“Adding to the green theme are recycling bins that are located next to each trash bin,” said Clayton. Also, parts of the outdoor fitness area and boardwalk/observation area were constructed from eco-friendly materials. For example the surface of the outdoor fitness area incorporated old rubber tires, while the decking on the boardwalk/observation area incorporated recycled plastic.

Coincidentally, a LeeTran bus stop is located right across the street from the park’s entrance and provides a good reminder that ride-sharing is a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, so are walking or biking, both of which can be part of a fun day at the park.

Read the full article here.

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