Nature Trail a community jewel; Audubon helps it shine

By PHYLLIS HODGES

The newly installed information sign by the SCC Audubon Club features photos and descriptions of wildlife and plants that a visitor might see along the trail. It will change periodically. President Linda Floyd says Conservation Committee Chair John Lampkin (pictured) has contributed much to the club since he moved to SCC last August. Bill Hodges photo.

The newly installed information sign by the SCC Audubon Club features photos and descriptions of wildlife and plants that a visitor might see along the trail. It will change periodically. President Linda Floyd says Conservation Committee Chair John Lampkin (pictured) has contributed much to the club since he moved to SCC last August. Bill Hodges photo.

When the Sun City Center Audubon Club looked around for community projects, they found that helping maintain the Community Association’s West Campus Nature Trail a perfect fit. After all, the club’s purpose is “to promote an understanding of and interest in all wildlife and the environment that supports it.…”

The CA board quickly agreed to the offer since they had found the trail they opened a couple of years ago deserved more attention than could be allotted to it. The .52-mile trail is adjacent to the property occupied by the CA West Campus (garden plots, boat and RV storage) and occupies 16 acres of a 37-acre tract owned by the CA.  Nothing was done previously because the only desirable entrance was across a Hillsborough County easement. In mid-2013, the county granted the CA the right to cross over the easement, so some interest was generated in making the property useful.

Howie Griffin was a lead member of the initial nature trail task force, which included some very knowledgeable and experienced trail hikers and planners. He said their vision was to provide a quiet getaway where residents could enjoy the area’s tranquility and observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

“It was my pet project; I have 18 grandkids and always kept in mind the picture of taking them to walk in the wilderness,” Griffin said. Although he is no longer involved, he is excited about the Audubon’s involvement; after all, they have about 225 members who can contribute to making the trail a real asset to the community.

SCC Audubon Club President Linda Floyd praised the initial task force and the CA maintenance crew for the phenomenal job in laying out the area and clearing the heavy brush.

Dick and Karol DeGraw, regular trail visitors, wanted to take one last walk before heading back to Jackson, Mich. They have enjoyed watching the changes made by the Audubon Club. “We see a definite improvement in the trail from last year when we were here,” said Karol. Last year they spotted an alligator in this canal that runs into Cypress Creek.

Dick and Karol DeGraw, regular trail visitors, wanted to take one last walk before heading back to Jackson, Mich. They have enjoyed watching the changes made by the Audubon Club. “We see a definite improvement in the trail from last year when we were here,” said Karol. Last year they spotted an alligator in this canal that runs into Cypress Creek.

The club just adopted the trail this year and went promptly to work on their ambitious plans. The Audubon work crews have been working to widen the trail, clear brush and eliminate “bad” plants while protecting the “eco-friendly” species. Other improvements include an information board at the entrance, benches and signage. “It’s a work in progress, and we have a lot of work to do,” Floyd said.

Conservation Committee Chair John Lampkin has been an Audubon member many years and admits he is obsessed with plants, insects and other wildlife. He has documented 30 species of butterflies, 53 species of birds and 102 plant species (of an estimated 300) in the trail area since relocating from New York to SCC last August. He is an excellent photographer; in fact, the entrance board features pictures and descriptions of trail wildlife and plants. Recognizing that visitor enthusiasm is created when they have a way to learn what they are looking at, the club hopes to offer guided tours in the future. A trail overview is also planned for the SCC Community Association Atrium TV.

CA President David Floyd (no relation to Linda) said members had wanted a more challenging and scenic trail than the walking path on the CA South Campus opened a few years ago. He is happy they were able to respond and said feedback about the Audubon Club’s efforts have been very favorable. “The trails are wider, easier to use and new signage makes the trails a learning experience. We certainly appreciate the support of the Audubon Club,” he said.

The West Campus Nature Trail is open only to members of the Community Association, Kings Point and Freedom Plaza.

If you go: It is located one mile north of S.R. 674 on W. Del Webb Boulevard. The entrance is between Vincennes and Seton Hall, just across the street from the North Lake sign. Golf cart parking is available and there is a bicycle rack, but on-street parking is the only option for cars. Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed because of the fragile plant infrastructure.

For Audubon Club information, call 813-642-8002.

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