Bob Gore nature preserve cleared of Hurricane Irma debris in hopes of drawing donors
Volunteers help clean up the Naithloriendun Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018.
Devin Azeltine, 30, prunes trees that have overgrown one of the trails in the Naithloriendun Wildlife Sanctuary in Golden Gate Estates on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. The sanctuary that was created by the late Bob Gore covers almost 200 acres.(Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)Buy Photo
Nature trails and boardwalks snaking through a 200-acre preserve in rural Collier County were left in tatters by the high winds of Hurricane Irma, but a nonprofit group is working to clear a path toward purchasing the property.
Bob Gore spent years piecing together the Golden Gate Estates property he named the Naithloriendun Wildlife Sanctuary. His death just over a year ago left the property to his brother, Paul Gore, although Bob Gore’s wish was for his land to become a more formalized sanctuary.
Now Cypress Cove Conservancy is trying to make that wish a reality. The group has one year to raise the $203,000 needed to buy the unique stilt house Gore designed and the 10 acres it stands on.
“We’re going to get there,” said Bobbie Lee Davenport, Cypress Cove Conservancy president. “There’s a lot of interest.”
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The nonprofit finished a lease agreement and now has free rein over the sanctuary, and there is work to be done.
“That trail leads to a lake about a mile down,” said Adam Moore, with Lawn Care of Naples.
A tangle of branches, vines and downed trees stretched in front of him. Any semblance of a trail was missing.
“I used to be able to just mow this,” Moore said. “Irma did a number on this place.”
He finished gassing up the chainsaw and went back to clearing the path in search of the lake.
Melissa Smith, 20, scrubs the screens of a gazebo built in the Naithloriendun Wildlife Sanctuary in Golden Gate Estates on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. The gazebo is one of a small handful of buildings being fixed up on the almost 200 acres of the sanctuary. (Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)
For the last five years, Moore has taken care of nature maintenance at the preserve.
“I’ve lived here for 46 years,” he said. “I know what needs to be saved and what needs to be cleared.”
However, Hurricane Irma halted all cleanup, leaving the trails in poor condition.
“The house and large trees are fine,” Davenport said. “It’s just the small trees that got the worst of it.”
Those small trees and their debris now littered the property. About 20 volunteers armed with machetes, clippers and rakes cleared the trails as best they could.
Decades-old wooden boardwalks and crossways were also torn apart by high winds or water of Hurricane Irma. A couple of 2-by-4 planks were thrown across gaps leading to a gazebo Davenport said could be used for nature classes or just relaxing.
A sign titled “Lost” hangs on tree in the Naithloriendun Wildlife Sanctuary in Golden Gate Estates on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. The sign reads, “Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is called ‘here’. And you must treat it as a powerful stranger. Must ask permission to know it and be known.” (Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)
“Gore was known to have a glass of wine out here in the evening,” she said.
The volunteers are hoping the cleaning efforts will impress the first round of visitors planned for Feb. 25, Davenport said. Every Sunday after, she plans to bring possible volunteers or donors on reserved tours through the site to build up excitement. Go to www.cypresscoveconservancy.com for more information.
“We have match funding for the first $15,000 we get in fundraising,” she said. “Everything that’s donated goes right to buying the property.”
But the house lot is only 10 acres of a 200-acre sanctuary. Davenport said a public-private partnership with Collier County would be a great option.
Paul Gore has offered to sell the preserve to Conservation Collier, the county’s land preservation program. County commissioners have yet to vote on whether to buy it. The purchase price could be more than $1.5 million, based on Paul Gore’s projected price of between $1.6 million and $2.4 million.
But for Heidi Heinrich, who will now stay and maintain the house with her husband full time as a volunteer, the cost is worth it.
“It’s for the wildlife — the black bears and the panthers,” she said. “I saw a wild panther in Lehigh Acres in 2000 when it was undeveloped. That’d never happen now. That could happen out here. We either do something now or it all goes the way of the bulldozer.”
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