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.
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:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hNyLP6CmrE
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.
2013-14 Newsletter update
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.
Fall 2012 Newsletter
The Friends of the Carlton are alive and well!
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.