Former Military Airfield Becomes Conservation Land in SWFL

There is a new green space for residents and visitors in SWFL where hikers, picnickers and nature enthusiasts can enjoy many outdoor activities.

Located between the areas of Fort Myers and Cape Coral, the Wild Turkey Strand Preserve was recently opened to the public.  It is accessible by taking State Road 82, westbound just before it reaches the Hendry County Line.   The Conservation 20/20 program by the Parks and Recreation Department created this area as a habitat for the wildlife.

The area where the preserve now stands was what used to be the Buckingham Army Airfield, the state’s largest airfield training facility that was used during WWII. This military airfield was used from 1942 to 1945 and used for gunnery training.

While the preserve no longer has traces of the former military airfield,  the employees of the Parks and Recreation Department still plan to install some panels that would provide additional information of the field former use during WWII.

The preservation area provides visitors with picnic areas, a nature trail that stretches 1.8 mile and two wetland observation decks.  Yet there are still two areas in the preserve that retains water especially during the rainy season.

As reported by the 20/20 coordinator, Ms. Sherri Furnari, a brochure is being set up for the preserve area where it would provide information about and points of interests in the nature preserve.  The Conservation 20/20 program received grants for the program.

Some of the wildlife that is common in the area are the white tailed deer, marsh rabbits, northern river otter, feral hogs and wild turkeys to name a few.

The property was initially acquired back in 2001 and the acquisition process was completed in 2008. It was acquired in three parcels, 2001, 2003 and 2008.  This has been the largest conservation area under the 20/20 conservation program. However, the area was damaged by wildfire back in April of 2007 where it burned most of the area’s flatwoods and cypress.

Work was done between contractors and the Caloosahatchee District Florida Division of Forestry to remove the large melaleuca trees in the area and to thin out the dense pine trees that are also found in the preserve.
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