PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla., Jan. 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Palm Beach County Florida will soon have a key 2400-acre Avenir Conservation Area that will serve as a wildlife corridor connecting several natural preserves from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean. The property was set aside as a preserve by the Avenir community, and it is being restored back to the historic native ecosystems of Florida’s natural lands using no public funds. The Avenir Conservation Area will be accessible to the public via miles of trails, including sections that are ADA accessible, connecting the entire Avenir Conservation Area.
Avenir earmarked 2400-acres of its total 4,752-acres to the creation of the preserve. The Avenir Conservation Area wraps the western, northern and northeastern borders of Avenir, the distinctive master-planned development that includes 3900 homes in gated neighborhoods and Panther National, a private championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
Three hundred acres of the Avenir Conservation Area have been completed with four miles of groomed walking trails and signage, another 600-acres are currently under active restoration, and work on the remaining 1500-acres will soon be underway. The habitats under restoration are pine Flatwoods, freshwater marsh, strand swamp, mesic pine Flatwoods, wet prairie, and dry prairie.
The Avenir Conservation Area was a cattle ranch and vegetable farm, stripped of natural habitats with man-made drainage canals and ditches diverting the natural flow of water. When completely restored–rid of invasive species, planted with indigenous grasses and trees, and water allowed to flow naturally, the Avenir Conservation Area will play an important role in the ecology of the region.
Avenir hired respected natural resource management specialist, Ed Weinberg of EW Consultants, Inc. of Stuart, Florida, to direct and manage the entire 2400-acre restoration. “I consider the Avenir Conservation Area the crowning moment in my long career,” said Weinberg.
According to Weinberg, the Avenir Conservation Area is an ecological keystone connecting a path of public lands that run from the Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area and Grassy Waters Preserve to the east and south, all the way west to DuPuis Management Area and Lake Okeechobee, and north to Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
By restoring each habitat to its original state through a variety of methods, conditions favorable for the native plants and animals are recreated allowing native populations to thrive. The methods of restoration and the resulting habitats will be on display and explained via signage throughout the trail system.
Non-native grasses like bahiagrass and smutgrass dominated the pasture area and provided forage for cattle. To restore the pastures back to native habitat, the non-native grasses were eradicated, and the soil was disked and plowed until there was nothing but open dirt. Then using three different species of grass, over 10,000 individual plants were installed, so far. As a result of the removal of the non-native plants, many native plants can thrive.
Weinberg’s team removed non-native trees, speeding up the recovery process and helping the land heal. The team needed to remove many Melaleuca trees, which is an invasive non-native tree from Australia that dominates and replaces many plant communities typically in and around wetlands. Before restoration started, some areas on this property were so dominated by the Melaleuca trees that no other plants were able to grow. The canopy blocked any sun from getting through and the trees sucked up moisture in the soil.
Weinberg studied the hydrology of the land and prepared it to allow water to naturally flow and restore continuity between previously disconnected wetland systems. The result is habitats with natural transition zones and increased biodiversity.
A low impact trail system with signage that informs the visitor about the habitats and restoration will enhance the public experience. Presently, four miles have been completed with signage.
Several award-winning homebuilders are active at Avenir with gated neighborhoods in varying stages of development, including Toll Brothers, Kenco Communities at Avenir, K. Hovnanian Homes, DiVosta, and Panther National luxury homes.