Friends of the Carlton Summer of 2022 Update

Dear Members/Donors/Volunteers,


Thank you for your continued support of the Friends of Carlton Reserve (FCR)!


For those who gave during the Giving Challenge, we apologize for the delay; we just received the results. 15 contributors added $1924.58 to our account! Since the first of the year, we have 6 new members and 7 new volunteers.  Thank you all for your support and stewardship of this priceless resource.

Use of Donations


In the meantime, FCR has been able to provide financial support to the Carlton Reserve for multiple projects/programs, including:


1. Refurbish the visitors cabin bulletin board and 2 kiosks.


2. Ordering and laminating assorted educational posters,


3. Providing refrigerated drinking water for cabin visitors.


4. Purchasing paint and supplies for parking lot car-stops, gates, signs, safety borders around the picnic pavilion and restroom ramp. 


5. Keeping supplied with state of the art technology, memory cards, and security boxes, the remote camera program to monitor wildlife.


6. Providing ongoing supplies for the Save Our Endangered Bromeliad program.


7. Purchasing You Are Here” signs and posts for deployment at remote trail intersections.



Enabling Volunteer Tasks in 2022


All of these projects were facilitated by dedicated, hardworking volunteers. 


The Carlton Reserve has come back to life after more than 2 years of park closures due to COVID, wildfire, seasonal flooding, law enforcement manhunt, and facilities repairs. Enabled by your financial support, despite setbacks—loss of storage sheds, tools and an all terrain vehicle— volunteers have been able to assist staff and recreational users of the Carlton Reserve in many ways:


1. Maintain three websites (FaceBook, YouTube and for information on flora, fauna, trail conditions, map downloads, etc. 


2. Help maintain trails and campground areas by trimming vegetation, cleaning or replacing markers and signs and repairing hog damage.


3. Greet and provide Reserve information to over 800 cabin visitors in the first few months of 2022.


4. Reporting and assisting law enforcement in locating diseased feral hogs.


5. Provide information to assist law enforcement in deterring illegal camping, poaching, littering, and other abuses of the wild and scenic Myakka river.


6. Monitor potable water supply and self-composting restroom and report malfunctions to staff.


7. Locate and GPS trail hazards and invasive plants for treatment or removal by staff.


8. Assist at FireFest with informational table, hay wagon narration, count of attendees, parking, set up and take down of exhibitors displays.


9. Greet and assist campers with information and maps.


10. Locate, direct and/or escort lost hikers back to parking.


11. Provide information to emergency personnel to assist injured visitor.


12. Map and report condition of benches and picnic tables so staff can replace, repair, retire, and/or pressure wash as needed.


13. Monitor cabin conditions so that staff can arrange for contract services: A/C duct replacement, bat exclusion devices, pest control, re-chinking, painting of window frames and wood preservation.


14. Report to staff gate, sign, and lock damage to deter unauthorized access.


15. Sweep, vacuum displays cases, clean glass surfaces in visitors cabin.


16. Maintain bromeliad cages and relocate vulnerable endangered plants.


17. Retrieve digital media, relocate, maintain camera traps and share selected photos of Carlton Reserve fauna with the public. 


18. Document, archive, and share events, wildlife activity and wildflowers on social media (FaceBook and YouTube) and the Friends website.

Gallery of Recent Friends and Volunteer Projects: Below




2020-2021 Update of Activities

Friends of the Carlton Reserve will continue to work on the following projects:

1. Deploy and monitor up to 10 trail cameras to provide staff and the public with information about the diversity of the wildlife population.
2. Man the visitors cabin to provide visitors with trail information and encourage them to store photos of maps on their phones
3. Support the County’s efforts at Fire Fest to keep the public informed regarding the use of prescribed burning as a land management tool
4. Assist staff in maintaining trails, trail markers, general appearance of Public Use Facility (PUF) areas and remote campsites
5. Assist staff and river ranger with monitoring river activities and launch site at Border Road and assist in removal of garbage from river floodplain 
6. Publish a  website with daily updates regarding wildflowers, wildlife sightings, trail conditions, Carlton history and other news related to the Reserve.
7. Publish a social media page where visitors can submit photographs for use on the site as well as share pictures and news of related flora, fauna and other natural lands
8. Coordinate with Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI)  to help fund and monitor swallow tailed kite numbers, nesting and migration patterns
9. Organize and and coordinate volunteer the Save Our Florida Bromeliad program to license and train volunteers to monitor, rescue and propagate endangered species of bromeliads in a partnership with Selby Gardens and other state agencies.
10. GPS and report the location of invasive plants so staff can treat and eradicate them.
11. Fund, build and deploy “You are here” location kiosks to assist hikers, bikers, and equestrian riders.
12. Locate, photograph and record sightings of new and rare plants (like GAPs) and invasive species (like Mexican weevils) for proper identification, vouchering, verification on  iNaturalist website and Florida Native Plant Society or similar  sites
13. Provide volunteers with training, tools and supplies: like cameras, security cables, bromeliad cages, small engine repair parts
14. Provide cabin supplies and amenities (vacuum sweeper, electric fan, rain gauge, resurfaced bulletin board, laminated maps for use by cabin docents, drinking water, office supplies, paper and ink for printing maps,  OPEN sign, etc.). 
15. Help monitor special conditions like trail damage/flooding/blockage, report problems to staff or respond to special requests from staff (i.e. bat colony in cabin, rodent infestation in cabin attic, self-composting  toilet malfunctions, abandoned pets, assistance with lost hikers, picnic pavilion graffiti, report missing signage at kayak launch, remove makeshift structures left by campers along the river,  purchase and erect new bat house to encourage relocation.)


Friends of the Carlton, Season Review 2016-2017

The Friends of the Carlton, whittling the number of meetings down to as few as possible, have still had a busy 2016-17 season. Here are some of the accomplishments, consistent with our mission as a community support group for public natural land. 


As  chapter of Friends of Sarasota County Parks, our 501(c)3 parent, we were able to double the amounts that our member/donors contributed during the Giving Challenge in October!


With those funds and the “sweat equity” of many volunteers, here is a list of accomplishments:


Giant Air Plants 1. We have a series of cages for the sequestering of Giant Air Plants (tillandsia utriculata). We funded the first cage, the second was donated by Jeff King, the third was funded through the efforts of Dr. Theresa Cooper and the Florida Bromeliad Society. As a result, a seed bank (each secured plant produces up to 10,000 seeds) is safe from an invasive Mexican weevil that has decimated the GAP population on Florida natural lands, including the Carlton Reserve. Volunteers were featured in educational videos filmed in the Reserve


Wildlife Monitoring 2. We expanded the wildlife monitoring program with 10 cameras at permanent locations as well as temporary deployment. In December a staff member sighted a panther and we deployed cameras to strategic locations—to no avail, alas. The bear from Nov. 2015 did not reappear.


Swallow Tailed Kites 3. In partnership with local Audubon groups, we helped fund research that tracks the nesting/migration routes of these incredible masters of flight. Three nests were located in the Reserve and “Carlton” (our bird with collar) was tracked as far as central America.


Fire Fest 4. We helped prepare the public area, parked cars, greeted and provided directions, distributed free T-shirts to children and helped pay for food and drinks for visitors at this event which has grown dramatically each year (over 600!).


Information Kiosk and Cabin 5. We provided funding and labor to construct the recycled plastic display case which is a work in progress. Three more cases will be constructed by next season, doubling the display area for laminated posters. A “photogenic” trail map is planned that will allow park visitors to snap a picture with their cellphones before setting out. A refrigerator, previously purchased by the Friends and refilled with water, has provided free refreshment to hikers, bikers, volunteers throughout the year. A monthly list of public walks and events is posted on the cabin as well as maps and information provided by member/volunteers manning the cabin.


Flora monitoring 6. Volunteers have assisted staff in locating invasive plants, identifying new and rare species (of sundews, butterworts, tillandsia)


Reserve security and safety 7.  Volunteers have helped staff and law enforcement by locating and monitoring areas of illegal activity (fires, dumping, vandalism, poaching), removing hunt stands,  repairing damaged property, removing dumped materials, reporting broken water lines, inoperable lights, damaged locks, bathroom equipment malfunctions, monitoring/removing old benches and picnic tables, replacing signage, assisting lost hikers/runners.


Maintenance 8. Mowing, weed whacking, trimming, clearing/sweeping ADA trails and pavilion, parts and maintenance of equipment


Education and Information 9. Friends maintain a website and FaceBook page with downloadable trail maps, photo galleries, news items, events calendar, links to related resources, with  nearly 10,000 “hits” per year.  Volunteers assisted in the production of educational films that aired on the Eduction Channel and featured activities in the Carlton. 



Assist and coordinate  other groups committed to recreation and public lands 10. The friends regularly coordinate with SCORR (Sarasota County Off Road Riders), Florida Native Plant Society, Venice Area Audubon and Sarasota Audubon


2015-16 Summary of Activities/expenditures:


The Friends of Carlton Reserve depends upon our members who, along with their dues, average about $1,000 per year in contributions.  This is also what we spend each year on average for expenses. Here is a summary of the 2015-16 season's activities;



 Wildlife Monitoring: 1st documented bear in history of Sarasota County

1. The wildlife monitoring program now has ten cameras, a collection of 500 saved pictures and over 8000 records. $800 was spent to replace outmoded or non-function cameras.

One of our cameras captured and documented the first recorded bear in Sarasota County history. This program requires several volunteers, many hours-- scouting, placing, securing, retrieving cameras and memory cards, entering data, computer time archiving pictures, manipulating data for reports to staff and news media when requested.


Donated Informational kiosk ($2500)

Installed by member/volunteers 

2. The Friends purchased and installed a new 6 panel informational kiosk in front of the cabin and filled it with laminated posters (purchased describing Carlton flora and fauna.


FireFest 2016 Attendance 350

3. The Friends assisted at the County sponsored FireFest by directing traffic, distributing T-shirts. manning an informational booth with maps and information.

Click here to view the promotional video:

Click here to see the photo gallery by Jean-Louis Dumaine.


Seedbank for Endangered Giant Air Plant 

4. In April 2016 the Friends spent $540 on materials to build a Giant Air Plant sequestration cage. Jeff King donated materials and labor for a second cage. One cage is located in the public area, the other near the tractor barn (marker13). Both cages now protect mature plants (some likely 15+ years old) from weevils.  They are providing a seed bank to help ensure the endangered GAP's survival in the Carlton Reserve and on other public lands in Sarasota County now being decimated by an invasive Mexican weevil. Friends assisted Darryl Saffer in the production of 3 episodes of the Florida Field Journal on "The Evil Weevil." Click here to view full list of 44 episodes.


Swallow Tailed Kite Research

5. The Friends donated $750 to the Swallow-tailed Kite project--another species declared endangered in other states. At least 3 pairs successfully nested in the Carlton Reserve this spring. The nests were documented and monitored. One bird was netted by professional researchers who will track its migration southerly, probably through Central America to Brazil's rainforests and hopefully back to the Carlton Reserve next year.


Website 10,000 hits /year


6. This website received more than 10,000 hits and provides the public with maps, photo galleries and contact information regarding camping, trails, history, and events.


 Other Activities by Friends of the Carlton member/volunteer

1. Regular Wed. workdays from Nov-May when the volunteer crew helped maintain trails, painted and replaced markers, repaired vandalism, swept picnic area and tables, trimmed and hauled debris away from public area, mowed narrow trails in designated public use area, smoothed hog damage with tractor, cleared debris and trimmed at Windy Sawgrass Camp, removed fallen trees from trails with chainsaw and tractor.

2. Located 2 illegal hunt stands and worked with law enforcement to surveil and dismantle them.

3. Assisted in cases of injured, gate trapped, or lost visitors (3 incidents involving 17 persons)

4. Manned visitor cabin on Saturday mornings, posted monthly County calendar of events, refilled map kiosks, distributed free water and answered questions. 

5. Led guided walks for Venice Newcomers, Meetup groups.

6. Met to be interviewed by local news media regarding bear sighting.

7. Guided/transported videographer who was filming episodes of the Florida Field Journal for the Education Channel (for use in Sarasota County Schools).

8. Assisted river biologist/ranger in monitoring Myakka River for illegal activities (campfires, cutting of trees, littering, reckless use of watercraft).

9. Assisted staff in monitoring the location and condition of new bicycle trails, trail clearing activities and signage.

10. GPSed locations of invasive plant species and notified staff.

11. Provided equipment training.

12. Secured building after theft of tools, met with law enforcement,  and helped inventory missing items.

13. Reported restroom and water conditioning malfunctions (2 incidents).

14. Removed/replaced rotted tables/benches.

15. Hosted consortium of experts and volunteers to discuss Giant Air Plant/ Mexican weevil problem.

16. Read traffic counter and recorded tally in database.

This is the cover photo of the "green issue" of Harbor Happenings which features the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve (beginning page 78).
(Click on the picture to download)
The sandhill crane mother and chicks are on the trail immediately in front of the cabin.
photo by Sherm Stratton

2014-15 Activities
Friends of the Carlton Member/Volunteers
1. Assisted in the County’s Fire Fest with parking, refreshments, visitor cabin
2. Funded handfans for giveaway at the event
3. Funded a 6 panel kiosk to be erected near the cabin
4. Maintained wildlife monitoring cameras and database of wildlife photos
5. Maintained public information website
6. Provided guided walks and bike rides for Meet-up groups,Venica Area Newcomers, Native Plant Society visiting botanists
7. Did public area maintenance including entrance weeding and mowing of inner trails
8. Maintained trail markers on all 100+ miles of trails
9. GPS located and marked with tape invasive plants
10. Posted calendar information at visitor cabin and refilled kiosks with maps
11. Assisted sheriff’s office with location and rescue of lost hikers
12. Assisted staff with theft incident at toolshed—provided inventory and secured the building
13. Assisted staff in monitoring/patrolling river for illegal camping and vandalism of resources
14. Provided interviews for staff writer, transportation for photographer for a special issue of Harbor Happenings that featured an 8 page article on the CMR.
15. Assisted bicycle community with location of bike trail extension
16. Alerted staff and assisted in securing pump/tank in failure of water supply incident
17. Assisted staff in operation of gate counter and maintained database of daily park use
18. Alerted and assisted staff in bathroom flooding incident
19. Trained new staff in tractor maintenance and use
20. Assisted staff in fuel caddy cleanup with pump and containers
21. Supplied marker posts for the SCORR  Boldly Go bike trail
22. Moved logs to parking area and exit road to deter “mudding"
23 Trained and assisted staff in the use of “our” haywagon at the opening of the Walton Preserve.
24. Invited by and honored by Lisa Carlton at an Argus dinner recognizing T. Mabry Carlton, Jr.
(Mr.& Mrs. Jim Courtright, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Christian represented Friends of the Carlton) 
Removed for restoration from Tucker's Camp
Removed for restoration from Tucker's Camp
2013-14 Activities: Friends of the Carlton Reserve 
  1. Contributed half of cost for new informational kiosk in parking lot.(see picture below)
  2. Assisted bike group with routing a 10 mile loop trail and donated posts for signage.
  3. Removed derelict trailer and cleaned up debris from Tucker's Camp.
  4. Painted posts, weed whacked and replaced trail markers as needed on 100+ miles of trails
  5. Washed main entrance signs and cleaned mildew from informational signs on trails.
  6. Weeded and maintained landscaping at front entrance. 
  7. Provided monthly guided bike rides for families and weekly Tuesday night rides.
  8. Provided guided walks for Newcomer, Meet-up and resident groups.
  9. Resupplied hay wagon with hay.
  10. Conducted special hayrides and outings for Native Plant and Audubon groups
  11. Mowed and trimmed self-guiding trails; removed downed trees
  12. Swept cabin and cleaned display cases
  13. Used leaf blower to clear picnic pavilion, tables and campsites
  14. Monitored wildlife with 8 trail cameras and related spreadsheet documentation: 3 new cameras, lockboxes
  15. Manned visitor center with free water, video presentations; filled map kiosks
  16. Maintained public website with downloadable maps, photo galleries, historical information, resource links
  17. Assisted staff with Fire Fest public education event
  18. Assisted Friends of Legacy Trail with parking at Tour de Parks
  19. Maintained kayak/canoe access
  20. Assisted river biologist in monitoring wild and scenic river protected habitat
  21. GPS'd invasive plant locations for County staff
  22. Repaired vehicle counter, collected and entered gate counts into spreadsheet
  23. Assisted horseback riders and sheriffs department with lost hikers
  24. Provided public education with maps, videos at Venice Expo
  25. Repaired potholes on entrance/exit roads, smoothed hog damage on trails
  26. Provided parts and repairs for small engine equipment
  27. Provided gift certificates for staff recognition
  28. Provided historical plaque for Tucker's Camp
  29. Provided 9 laminated field guides for public education
  30. Provided panther image on  2' X 4' plastic sign for public presentations
  31. Updated 9 descriptive maps of 2 hour, half and all day trail loops for cabin distribution and web download
  32. Assisted in placement of memorial bench on blue trail (FOSCP)
  33. Provided 2' X 6' Friends of Carlton Reserve banner for public presentations
  34. Presented program on wildlife monitoring to Master Naturalists at Crowley Center

2013-14 Newsletter update

click here to view on FOSCP site

1. The Friends of the Carlton shared in the cost ($350) of building a new kiosk that guides visitors on a new hiking/biking trail constructed by a newly formed group of bicyclists, SCORR--Sarasota County Off Road Riders. Their counter on this popular trail is tallying a record number of visitors to the Carlton Reserve. 

2. The Friends of the Carlton received word that they will be receiving a $200+ grant from Microsoft. Microsoft recognizes with matching grants, employee time that is donated to "not for profits" and public entities.  Friends of the Carlton worked with Drew Shell and Julie Scherer who regularly visit the Carlton Reserve and other public lands to inventory plant species as well as locate invasive species. Last year's efforts were rewarded with the first Microsoft grant amounting to over $500.
3. The Friends of the Carlton donated another set of 3 cameras, memory cards, cabled lockboxes and batteries ($500) to help monitor wildlife in the Carlton. This brings to 8, the number of cameras currently deployed. Besides the 5200 record database already accumulated since 2003, the Friends recently redeployed cameras,  hoping to catch a photo of another panther which had been sighted recently by the superintendent in Myakka River State Park as well as by a contractor in the Carlton Reserve. This would be the third panther sighting in the Reserve since 2001. Here is a link to the panthers previously confirmed in the Reserve. Carlton panthers
4. The Friends of the Carlton are purchasing straw for the hay wagon so that Sarasota County trained volunteers can resume hay rides this season.  The frame was previously donated by The Friends of the Carlton to SC parks and Recreation which actually built the wagon's floor and sides. A custom bimini top was later added, thanks to a donation by Fred Starling.
 5. The Friends of the Carlton Reserve are supporting Fire Fest, a public education event sponsored by Sarasota County Natural Resources, Feb. 1, 2014.  Volunteers have been helping "spruce up" the public area and adjacent trails for the event. Friends of the Carlton will provide free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and bottled water in the visitors cabin, present a video and assist with parking. Here is a link to a flyer (downloadable) on our website.
 6. The Friends of the Carlton have been offered space at the Kiwanis Venice Expo to be held on Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Venice Community Center.
They will be sharing the space with Friends of Legacy Trail and providing maps and information about the Reserve in person and in videos.
7. Friends of the Carlton Reserve led a group of 34 members of the Garden Club of Pelican Pointe on a 2 hour guided tour of the Reserve,  Jan. 22, 2014 which included a guided hike around the blue trail and a presentation in the cabin that included maps, history, information about natural habitats, flora, fauna, trails and activities.

Fall 2012 Newsletter

The Friends of the Carlton are alive and well!

If you've visited the Carlton Reserve in recent weeks--to hike, bike, paddle, ride, observe the wild things or meditate in quiet solitude--you've probably already noticed the changes that fall brings. The often flooded landscape of summer has given way to wildflowers: blazing stars (liatris) and Catesby's lilies, especially along the red trail.
Volunteers have been busy after the waters receded in late October keeping the Carlton ready for visitors:
--mowing the color trails, 
--weed-whacking the entrance, the equestrian and main parking lots, 
--trimming overhanging brush form trails, 
--picking up and hauling debris from the picnic area, 
--readying the youth camp for the Boyscouts, 
--making necessary repairs to signage, 
--clearing downed trees
--getting maintenance equipment operational, 
--keeping the kiosks filled with brochures, 
--manning the cabin on weekends between floods, 
--checking the gates, 
--changing the opening/closing time signs
--leading family and strenuous bike rides
--repairing potholes in the entrance/exit roads
Kenya Leonard has organized a team of regular Wednesday volunteers. If you are interested in helping out, send Kenya ( an e-mail to get registered and placed on the e-mail list. 
You may notice in the cabin some new artifacts related to turpentining that were collected and donated by Rand Carter, including  some tools and a barrel of processed resin.
We expect to offer a variety of public programs as the season progresses, based on the survey which many of you responded to. Toward that end, we have added 20 stack chairs to the cabin so that we can have presentations  utilizing the computer, flat screen TV, DVD player, and serve refreshments from the refrigerator and hot water machine.
The trail camera crew, led by Donna and Ernie have diligently kept a half dozen cameras deployed and serviced. Danny Williams and Donna have kept the data up to date and archived.
Except for the snow, they truly are our keepers of the wildlife, like the postmen of yore:  "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
They found a remarkable photo. A leucocistic (mixed coloration) buck has been caught on this camera over a period of 5 years and now has a set of 10 point antlers. You can view him on the website (
Several of our members are active members of related organizations which use the Carlton for biking, hiking, birding and other activities. For example, Sierra Club outing leaders, Audubon members, and SCORR (Sarasota County Off Road Riders) conduct Carlton events through their respective groups.
You may also find activities in the Carlton that are listed on the Sarasota County calendar. 
1. Go to
2. Click calendar to the right
3. Use the pull down menu to choose Nature Walks
Please check the Friends of the website regularly for updates of activities and meetings. If you see errors on the website or items that need to be updated, please contact If you have not seen the photo galleries, especially the wildflowers, you can view the pictures as a slide show or as a gallery by using the icons on the galleries page.
Happy trails to you until we meet again:
 "Human beings have needs that are more than just physical and social; we are spiritual animals. I believe that we have a built-in need to experience wilderness and nature, a craving that can be fulfilled partially by knowing that there are such cathedrals to nourish the soul. . .An experience of the wild uplifts the human spirit and also makes us rethink some of our  assumptions and beliefs." David Suzuki

ARCHIVE--text only   Wilderness Journal

News from the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve

April 1, 2008 Issue #1


T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Reserve Open House

The Friends of the Carlton will sponsor a public open house on Saturday April 5, 2008, from 9-3.

There will be informational booths, including introduction to birding, canine search and rescue, Sarasota

County herpetologist Brian Pavlina, Wildlife Center of Venice and others. There will be bike tours for families,

children, adults, and advanced. The open house also features nature tours, butterfly tours, biking and kayaking

information, and a wildlife photography clinic taught by Robert Shainline of Englewood. Sarasota County

Sheriff school resource officers will conduct a bicycle rodeo. There will also be informational talks on

ecological burning, trail maintenance and management, feral hog control, and the Myakka Wild and Scenic

River. These events are free and open to the public--rain or shine. For more information, please call the Friends

of the Carlton at 941 486 2547.

Update: Trail Cameras

The wildlife monitoring project now has 4 digital cameras deployed. They are recording wildlife activities on

the Carlton as well as adjacent tracts. We now have well over 600 pictures which are being entered into a

database so that we can record and report the date, time, location, gender, number of species. Mostly we are

recording deer, feral hogs and turkey but occasionally coyote, bobcat, otter, raccoon, opossum, or a passing

sandhill crane. These shots (male coyote and fawn) were taken near the “No Wake” sign east of marker 32 on

the Venice-Arcadia Grade. Note that the pictures are time-stamped and dated. This camera was donated by Russ

Johnson and gives excellent quality shots. The fawn picture is being used on the kiosk at Deer Prairie.


Under Discussion

With GPS and mapping help from Peter, the Friends are exploring new single track paths along which to guide

small groups into areas of the Carlton to view champion trees and unique habitats. These guided walks might

involve both loops as well as one-way transport and treks back from remote locations to the public area. While

still protecting delicate wildlife habitats and pristine areas from general public access, the Friends might use

these occasional, special walks to raise public awareness of the remote beauty of the Carlton-- the only tract of

its kind in Sarasota County to offer a true wilderness experience. A preview of some of our champion trees and

pristine habitats is below.

On-going Project: Carlton Reserve History

The tape recorded interview with Boyce Blackmon that was conducted by Rett and Priscilla has been

transferred to a CD which will be archived in the cabin. When Linda has transcribed the interview and Boyce

has confirmed its accuracy, it will become part of the Friends’ ongoing project to record the history and personal

anecdotes (“Cow Tales”) of the Carlton. We hope to contact all persons who had experience in the Carlton

before its acquisition by the County as we trace its past from the days of turpentine and cattle ranching to

present uses--water resource, protected wildlife habitat and passive recreation.

Preview: Boyce describes his 30 year recreational lease from the John D. MacArthur Foundation, beginning in

the 1960’s; and he recounts some of his favorite experiences: an encounter with an enormous alligator barring

the trail, the abundance of wildlife, sharing the wilderness with his family at his hunt camp which was located

east and north of the Windy Sawgrass cowboy camp.

Look For This Month—Flag Iris Barred Owl


Rick’s Corner

I am often asked about snakes in the park, and we have a wide variety. One of the most asked about and

misunderstood snakes we have is the Florida Cotton mouth or Water moccasin. Water moccasins prefer flooded

woodlands but can also be found in rivers lakes and ponds. They are sometimes found in dry habitats like pine

flat woods.

The Water Moccasin has a bad reputation for being aggressive. This is not necessarily true. Many of the water

snakes quickly seek shelter in the water when disturbed while the poisonous Water Moccasin will hold its

ground when approached. It will open its mouth wide showing its white lining and large fangs in an attempt to

frighten any potential threat. If approached it will strike aggressively and the venom is potentially lethal.

Found on open ground the snake will often try to find safety in the tall grass or in the water if there is any close

at hand. In the water the Cottonmouth swims with its head high out of water.

This picture was sent to me by the Orens from one of their trips to Myakka River State park.

Volunteer Opportunities

The April 5 Open House. See Rick.

Manning the cabin—more help needed both on weekends and during the week. See Tom, Bill or Russ.

Data entry—recording info from trail cams in database in Excel. See Sherm or Donna.

Reset and paint self-guiding posts in public area (pink,yellow, blue, green, orange, and red trails). See Rick.

Minor clearing and cleaning trails in public area of fallen debris. See Rick

Trail scouting and minor clearing for special walks (see Sherm).

Newsletter composing/editing—in Word. See Rick, Sherm, Linda or Russ.

Construction at the cowboy camp and the utility shed is on hold, pending funding from the County.

Look for in Upcoming Issues

Cow Tales and historical information excerpted from interviews with Boyce and others.

A complete description of the wildlife monitoring program

Featured plants and birds and other seasonal flora and fauna in the Carlton.

Snapshots. trail notes and sightings.

Featured volunteers and special events.

Map downloads, linked resources,

News from partner organizations—Friends of Sarasota County Parks, Legacy Park




April 28, 2008 Issue #2

 T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Reserve Open House 

The Friends of the Carlton held a public open house on Saturday April 5, 2008, from 9-3. Many thanks to all the volunteers and organizations who helped us make this day possible and bring greater awareness of the treasures we have in these protected lands. 

The Orens introduce bird watching         

LeeAnn Harling & Bill Locher greet visitors        

Sally Storsberg makes new “Friends”

Boyce Blackmon orients a  visitor.                            

Wildlife Center of Venice                            

Silent Sports of Osprey

Robt. Shainline: Wildlife Photographer             

K-9 Search & Rescue                                      

Village Bikes of Sarasota

Gigi Bates tries on a reptile necklace.                            

Sarasota Cty. Herpetologist Brian Pavlina               

Linda Lovallo demonstrates--one size fits all.

Information on other County parks

Ranger Rick Storsberg and Land Manager Debbie Blanco discuss issues such as recreation, ecological burning and trail maintenance. 

Bob Fitzpatrick captivates us with the complexities of feral hog control.

Sheriff gives advice on bike safety

Geocaching Instruction            

Nancy Edmondson returns from guiding a nature tour. 

Events not pictured were a walking tour with Tom Learmont, a butterfly walk by Jean Dubi,  biking tours by Village Bikes, wildlife camera update by Donna Day & Sherm Stratton, GPS use for hiking by Peter Johansson and a presentation on the Myakka Wild and Scenic River by Stacia Hetrick. Closing remarks on the history of the Carlton were presented by Ranger Rick Storsberg and Boyce Blackmon who held the recreational lease on the property for 30 years prior to County acquisition. Thank you to all the other helpers: Russ Johnson, Bob Branson, Jim Courtwright, Bob Hladik, Charlie Sample, Carl Schwartz, and Pete Davis.



Dec. 4, 2008 Issue #3

Welcome back! You might not have noticed above a new e-mail address and a new trial website address for the Friends of the Carlton where you will find previous issues of this e-letter, meeting minutes, directions to and weather in the Carlton, upcoming events, forms for joining and volunteering, helpful links, slideshows of wildlife and more to come as we develop it and try out hosting options. We welcome suggestions regarding what you would like to see on that site. Possibilities: web galleries of seasonal flowers, seasonal birds, Parks and Recreation news from Rick Storsberg, land management news from Debbie Blanco, hiking maps, etc.

Changes in the Carlton Reserve

Cabin Re-chinking. After Rick noticed moisture and insects in the cabin that entered through the gaps in the logs, a crew of volunteers spent two days scraping and re-chinking to protect the visitor cabin from the weather and “varmints.”

Security Cameras, Fencing and Gate. In the summer when the park was closed due to flooding, thieves drove over the cable and cut away the cabin A/C compressor,  apparently for the copper tubing. The new A/C is protected now by a chain link fence enclosure, security cameras, and a new gate into the service area.

Kiosks. The Friends of the Carlton placed two new signs at the kiosks for the Myakka Island Trail behind the cabin and the Equestrian Trail in the Horse Trailer Parking Lot. The signs with wildlife photographs are near sign-out boards built as Eagle Scout projects. Most of the photographs were taken by FCR trail cameras, as were the pictures used on the Deer Prairie Creek kiosk.

A sightings clipboard will be placed at the cabin entrance so hikers can share recent wildlife sightings or other trail notes.

A new bike rack and rain gauge is in front of the cabin.

Tribute Plaque Just west of the cabin, a large rock and oak tree have been placed in preparation for a commemorative site, recognizing the public service of former Florida Senator Lisa Carlton, daughter of T. Mabry Carlton, Jr., after whom the Reserve is named.

Kayak Launch A new webbing material is will be placed on the riverbank for a 6-month trial period to protect the bank and make the site easier for launching. 

A working windmill and drinking trough have been installed at the cowboy camp near marker 43.

Other News

Joe Sipos,  SC staff member assigned to the Carlton, has had back surgery and will be recovering for several weeks. The Friends volunteers have been helping to fill in by sprucing up the public area, self-guiding trails and the horse trailer parking lot. 

Champion Tree Walk Auction The Friends of the Carlton helped raise funds for the restoration of a historic building at Philippi Creek Park by offering to sponsor a special guided walk to view “champion” trees in the Carlton. We provided a photo gallery of some of the trees. Tickets were sold at auction in October with proceeds turned over to the building restoration fund.

Camping Discussions are underway possibly to allow remote, provisional camping at designated locations with pre-registration and fee. 

Cattle leasing proposal  After getting feedback from the Friends last spring, Debbie Blanco presented the County Commission with a proposal to try cattle leasing on a limited basis on the Jordyn parcel which borders the Carlton at Deer Prairie Slough that has already been impacted by livestock. The proposal is under review by the County Commission.

Timber Thinning There are timber thinning operations ongoing in the Carlton that may affect recreational activities. Area 1 is located in the central Carlton, south of the loop road and north of the power line where there was both a controlled burn and an uncontrolled fire caused by lightning. Area 2 is north of 20 on the Turpentine Trail and Area 3 is on the north end of the Stockade Trail. If you have questions, you can contact Debbie Blanco, SC Natural Resources, land manager in the Carlton, 861-5000.


New Neighbors The Carlton is growing with the addition of contiguous lands that have recently been acquired under ESLPP (Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program). 

The parcel at the west end of the FPL power line, formerly known as the Wild Turkey Club, is now County owned and renamed the Embry parcel. 

At the east end of the FPL power line, extending all along the Carlton east border, a 4640 acre parcel, called the Ranch Reserve, has been purchased. It includes a major section of Big Slough and extends south to Myakkahatchee Creek Park. A Conservation Easement has been purchased on a 7500 acre  parcel east of that.  

The 500 acre Jordyn parcel adjoins the Carlton on the south border near Deer Prairie Creek. There are walk-throughs at both gates.

Another similar parcel, the Churchill tract, abuts the Carlton on the south border near Tucker’s Camp. Access by footbridge from the Carlton is planned within the next 6 months. The gate at the end of Border Road has been removed but access is still closed.

Along the river, only a few lots remain in private ownership on the east side. One is south of the “Youth Camp” and the others are south of the Turkey Club tract which is now County owned. The Ligon property on both sides of the river has been purchased and renamed. The western parcel is now part of the Sleeping Turtles Preserve that includes most of the land along the west side of the river from N. Jackson Road to Snook Haven. Parts of it allow equestrian access or pets on leashes.


Wildlife Monitoring/Trail cameras

During the summer, Donna Day, Linda Lovallo and Sherm Stratton were invited by the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club to present a program on the Friends of the Carlton’s trail camera project for wildlife monitoring. As a result, several news media contacted the Friends and did stories about us. There was a feature article by Kate Spinner with photos in the Herald Tribune and a web gallery posted on their site. Bruce Asbury did a video piece for SNN that aired several times. And Jackie Barron did an interview that aired on WFLA. 

Despite all the good publicity, a second trail camera was stolen during the rainy season when we had pulled cameras closer to the paved road so that we could service them when the trails were flooded. We replaced one camera with donations and now have 3 devices deployed at remote locations, well away from public trails. 


Here is a male fawn (spots arranged in lines indicate male).       Here he is a week later.

His mother “stashed” him in the woods in front of  the camera several times as she grazed in a nearby wetland.

A leucistic (partial albino?) buck                          1 year later (last month) at the same camera.

Buck in velvet (new antlers) Buck—note thinness       Lone coyote as many as 3 are in one photo

Watch for atamasco lilies in recent burned areas—they often appear just a few days after a burn, especially under pines in wet areas, before anything else has sprouted.

Just finished blooming, pine lily—along the central red trail, west of the intersection with the green.

Volunteer Opportunities

If you are interested in volunteering, we have task lists from both Debbie and Rick. Linda Lovallo is the volunteer coordinator. There are forms on the website that the County requires or we can send them via e-mail. We work different days, in groups or as individuals, depending on the tasks we have to do and the experience of volunteers. Some of the tasks we have worked on this fall include:

1. Weed whack, clear branches, pick up trash at the kayak launch and parking area.

2. Pick up trash along Border Road from the bridge and along the MC Parkway to the gate to the water treatment plant.

3. Pick up trash along entrance and exit roads (exposed by burn).

4. Trim overhanging brush,  throw debris from trails, reset and clear markers on orange,  green and red trails.

5. Man the visitor’s center, sweep display cases and floor, update bulletin boards and re-supply kiosks.

6. Rake and remove pine needles, fronds from picnic area to decrease fire load.

7. Leaf blow pavilion, cabin sidewalk, parking lot and trails in public area.

8. Weed whack horse trailer parking lot.

9. Set cameras in field, locate with GPS, trim vegetation from immediate area, replace batteries and memory cards.

10. Download and re-title trail camera pictures, enter into Excel spreadsheet, save selected photos.

11. Compose electronic newsletter and distribute.

12. Transcribe taped (digital) interviews for Carlton history project.

13. Publicize Friends of the Carlton sponsored activities in local media and on website.

14. Gather trash for pick-up at the cowboy camp.

15. Trim overhead for mower access on remote trails.

16. Maintain trail markers on remote trails that can only be accessed in dry season.

Upcoming Work Details

1. Load trash into dumpster at cowboy camp.

2. Install fencing at cowboy camp near dipping pen.

3. Remove barbed wire fencing in selected areas of the Carlton.

4. Finish trail maintenance on blue, yellow, pink, and red trails.

5. Scrape and paint exterior cabin window frames.

6. Paint numbered marker plaques and replace throughout the Reserve; replace, reset, and clear markers.

7. Pick up trash on Jordyn and Churchill parcels.

8. Help with GPSing exotic invasive plants as follow up to State grant (after training).

9. Clear Wilderness Bike trail


There are volunteer opportunities on many other SC sensitive lands where several of the Friends also volunteer.






Information & Website


Park Naturalists:

 Meghan Harris Meyer

         Art Jensen




Sarasota County

Field Guide

to Conservation Lands

(download 64pp. PDF)

Field Guide.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 3.8 MB


Link to searchable U.S. map resources with parks, trails, campgrounds, historical sites, marinas, etc.



Friends of the Carlton

is a chapter of  FOSCP   

not for profit corp.