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GICIA’s Bayne Stevenson and Rick Joyce overlooking the rubble that once was Mercabo. The sight has since been completely cleaned and is ready for new planting and – hopefully – a lot of new wildlife. conference center to organizations where the most positive impact could be made. Demolition began in early June 2016, and all of the nine structures were successfully razed by August 31. Planning for the ecological restoration phase of this exciting project is well underway, with the primary goal being to create and enhance the property for native bird, animal and marine life. GICIA Executive Director Misty Nichols has been in contact with Nancy Douglass and Kat Harrison, both shorebird biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, regarding the creation of endangered shorebird nesting habitat. "There is great ecological promise for this site, which is now part of more than 250 acres owned and managed as GICIA conservancy property that will be protected in perpetuity," said Stevenson. The GICIA board has approved two plans for the site. One is a perimeter landscape plan that will be similar in tree/plant arrangement and species to those used in the GICIA Bike Path Master Landscape Plan. These native, drought- and salt- tolerant plants and trees such as cabbage palm, buttonwood, palmetto, black olive etc., will create continuity between the property at the entrance to Gasparilla Island and the five-mile stretch of GICIA Bike Path. The planning stage of this part of the project has been extensive, as GICIA directors want to assure that water views are maintained while an aesthetically pleasing, financially responsible, siteappropriate planting is established. The second plan, for ecological restoration, will include the shorebird nesting area at the tip of the peninsula as well as a filter marsh that will attract a variety of local and migratory birds. The interior plantings will also contain native indigenous plants but will be more diverse than the perimeter. We will concentrate on creating bird and wildlife foraging areas while still maintaining some of the large open areas of the peninsula, which will maintain the lovely view from the causeway. Planting of the perimeter, as well as the initial ecological restoration, began in late September and should be completed by mid December. The ecological phase of this project will carry on over the years as we add to the plan with diverse and possibly even endangered species of plants. The GICIA is thrilled about this addition to our Land Conservancy. It is important that we continue to move forward with our restoration efforts, as the Charlotte County property tax exemption requires that the site meet the land conservancy mission on January 1, 2017. 26


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