What’s New in Lakes Park – April 2020
After a brief period of closure to facilitate social distancing, Lee County re-opened Lakes Park on April 29th.
New concrete repair/replacement
While the park was closed in April, Parks & Recreation took the opportunity to make some repairs. Concrete was replaced at the splash pads and also in the Rose Garden gazebo.
New concrete replaces the old floor of the gazebo at the Rose Garden in Lakes Park
The new concrete floor of the Rose Garden gazebo is nicely level.
The “wet playgrounds” at Lakes Park are also called “splash pads”; they’re closed at the moment to facilitate social distancing and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The recent park closure enabled Parks & Rec to make certain repairs while the public was away, including new concrete at the Parks’s splash pads.
Plants and Flowers – What’s Bloomin’?
Park staff sent photos during the shutdown of What’s Bloomin’ in the Botanic Garden. Check out some of the flowers and plants that are thriving, thanks to the hard work of Lee County’s volunteer forces.
African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) growing on the edge of the Fragrance Garden. As the name implies, this tree is a native of Africa’s tropical regions. This tree can grow to be 50-60 feet tall. Its bell-shaped flowers are yellow to orange/red. CLICK the PIC for more information from UF/IFAS.
Indian shot canna (Canna indica) growing at the base of some trees in the Fragrance Garden at Lakes Park. This non-native is found all over the Southeastern United States, as far west as Texas, and north to the Carolinas. CLICK for more information from the USDA database.
The potted dessert rose in the Succulent Garden continues to bloom away. Volunteers added this plant to the gardens this past January; click here for more about that.
Gopher Tortoise Habitat – Progress Report
You may recall that the Summerlin Road side of the park was mowed early in 2019 to improve the habitat for gopher tortoises. These creatures are called a “keystone species” because their burrows are essential to the safety and survival of more than 300 other species who seek shelter within them. They need to be able to get around and graze in order to thrive and continue to provide shelter for other creatures. READ the previous post about this land stewardship activity, and then enjoy these photos, provided by Conservation 20/20 land stewardship coordinator Felicia Nudo.
Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), aka “gopher tortoise candy” grows in the eastern United States, while most of the country’s other cacti grow in the west. It is a good food source for the gopher tortoise, and a usefulfood and shelter plant for multiple other species. CLICK to learn more from UF/IFAS.
Another plant that thrives in the sandy gopher tortoise habitat is stagger bush or rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea). This plant is typically found in the florida scrub environment. READ MORE at UF/IFAS.
Classic shape of the gopher tortoise burrow; flat on the bottom, domed at the top. Burrows average 15 feet long, but can be more than twice that length. When conducting a gopher tortoise survey, the size of the burrow entrance and observable indications of an active burrow are some of the data that is collected.
JANUARY 2019 – The gopher tortoise habitat at the Summerlin Road end of Lakes Park, right after mowing.
February, 2020 – same view a year later.
Wildlife Sightings in the Park
We’re only half kidding when we say that the wildlife partied hard during the time the park was closed. Here are some photos of wildlife sightings provided by Parks & Recreation staff, and one from a resident of Amavida Living, a senior living facility bordering the Gladiolus Drive side of the park with great park views.
A mid-sized American alligator belly-slides in the mud at Lakes Park. Note the tail-trails! During the dry season in Florida (typically, November through April), ponds, lakes, marshes, and other freshwater wetlands areas shrink as water levels drop. This creates a concentrated pool of food for wading birds, turtles, alligators and other wildlife. Under these conditions, it becomes easier to catch a meal, or even a feast. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is an “indicator species”; its presence indicates suitability of the habitat for both the alligator and its prey.
No, it’s not a creature from a horror film. It’s a snapping turtle crossing a path at Lakes Park. There are several snapping turtles resident in Florida – the alligator snapping turtle (lives around the panhandle), common snapping turtle, and Florida snapping turtle (significantly smaller than the other two). Judging from the location (Southwest Florida) and size, this one is likely a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina).
Amavida Living is an assisted living facility situated on the Gladiolus Drive border of Lakes Park. Late last month, a resident spied this pair of American bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) resting in a snag in the park and snapped a cell phone shot. Snags are dead trees which make excellent vantage points when searching for prey; lack of foliage provides for an unobstructed view of the terrain. Eagles and other birds of prey such as hawks and kites are frequently seen hunting in the park.