In 2017 on September 10th, the eye of Hurricane Irma passed less than 6 miles from the Blair Audubon Center at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The Sanctuary suffered heavy tree damage and breaches to the boardwalk, causing a 560-foot-length section to remain closed to visitors. This week, Audubon celebrates the reopening of the damaged section of boardwalk lost in Irma, which was repaired with overwhelming support from the community, Corkscrew friends, and generous support from Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) through its charitable arm the NextEra Energy Foundation.
“We are so glad to have our entire boardwalk open again for our visitors,” said Lisa Korte, Ph.D., Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Director. “This repair was a real Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary team effort. Dedicated staff, volunteers, board members, and donors worked together to reopen this section. After being closed for more than two years, we hope you’ll enjoy the opportunity to revisit this section of the boardwalk,” she concluded.
While repairs were underway, visitors had been routed to a bypass section of the same length. The new boardwalk consists of FiberForce lumber, which is made with post-consumer recycled products like milk jugs and cleaning product bottles, making it a resilient and environmentally sustainable choice.
FPL’s post-Irma support also included funds for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary resource management initiatives and onsite educational signage. One of these initiatives was a six-month Conservation Internship for the Resource Management program that provided an opportunity for a student to experience conservation management in real-time. Evan Flynn, a student at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, remains inspired by her internship experience.
“Moving forward, I hope to take my knowledge of wetland restoration and conservation with me to graduate school, as I work to understand and mitigate coastal geologic changes in the face of sea-level rise and climate change,” said Flynn. “This would not have been possible without my time as an intern working with knowledgeable resources and research staff here.”
Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, recently recognized as a Wetland of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists, has been an Audubon-protected nature site for more than 100 years. It protects 13,000 acres, including the world’s largest remaining, old-growth bald cypress forest. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually explore the Sanctuary’s 2.25 miles of boardwalk through ancient forest and marsh habitat.
The Blair Audubon Visitor Center and boardwalk are open every day of the year from 7 AM until 5:30 PM, with the last admission at 4:30 PM. Visit www.corkscrew.audubon.org for more information.