Recently Prairie Pines Preserve was closed due to a wildfire which burned approximately 45 acres just north of the orange trail. Wildfires often occur at this time of the year due to lightning strikes. In the event of a wildfire staff closes all access gates as soon as possible. During wildfires emergency vehicles need to be able to travel quickly through the preserve without worrying about equestrians or hikers being on the trails. We also get everyone out because we do not know when winds will shift the direction of the fire or when spotfires will start in new areas.
Staff will post closures to this website and the Conservation 2020 facebook page as soon as possible in the event of wildfires. Due to mop-up activities the preserve is generally closed for at least one day after a wildfire.
Wildfires are reminders that if we don’t do prescribed burning, wildfires will do the burning for us. Prescribed burns mean equipment is on-site and burners are monitoring the weather for changes and modifying their burn patterns throughout the day to manage where fire and smoke goes. Wildfires are spontaneous events that get a head start before equipment can get on site, and are often pushed by winds so they don’t stay within a planned burn unit and smoke is not controlled.
Lee County Electric Coop (LCEC) has begun construction work on a new transmission line crossing a portion of Prairie Pines Preserve. Clearing for the line has begun and pole setting is tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of June. When hiking or horseback riding be prepared to encounter construction equipment near the ditch crossing bridge which provides access to the trail system east of the old railroad berm. When construction activities pose a hazard to preserve visitors, we will announce closing of the trails on this website page and at the kiosk in the parking area off of US 41. Please check the website page or kiosk before heading onto the trails.
Prairie Pines Preserve is located in north central Lee County, within Sections 1-3 and 11-16 of Township 43 South, Range 24 East. It was acquired as two parcels in 2001 and 2003 for a total of 2,709 acres. In 2009, nearly 55 acres were transferred to LDOT for a road right-of-way along Del Prado Blvd. Extension. An existing road easement bisected the preserve at the time of purchase.
The Preserve is bordered by an active railroad and I-75 on its northeast side; Lost Lane, which is an unimproved road, and a drainage ditch on its east side; Del Prado Extension/Mellow Drive and a drainage ditch on its south side and the county line on the north boundary. On the west side there is an abandoned railroad grade that is owned by the Division of Utilities, with 320 acres of the 2,654 acre Preserve extending west beyond this railroad grade towards US 41.
The Preserve consists of a mosaic of several native plant communities, including wet and mesic flatwoods, depression marshes, wet prairies, and prairie hammocks, marshes and a small area of abandoned pasture. Due to the lack of fire, many of these communities were infested with dense stands of melaleuca and other listed invasive exotic plants. Pines had also invaded hammock areas and formed dense stands due to lack of natural fires. In 2010 pine tree thinning was conducted on the site, along with the beginning of melaleuca removal. Over 90% of the melaleuca was removed from the site for free and contractors have been hired to treat regrowth and other invasive exotics over the next several months. Without the free work, it would have taken years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat the melaleuca in place.
This preserve is one of a handful of 20/20 preserves planned with parking areas and restroom facilities. The amenities, trail markers and signage, and the exotics treatment on parcel 194 were paid for with a grant awarded by the Florida Communities Trust program.
Bike Trails, Bird Watching, Geocaching, Hiking (Boardwalk), Hiking (Marked Trails), Horseback Riding, Nature Study/Photography, On-leash Pet Walking, Picnic Area
3-mile primitive at-grade Bike Trail
Prairie Pines Trail Map