around the trunks of such magnificent trees,” Palm Beacher Campion Platt, a local architect who serves on the Audubon Islands Sanctuary Committee, said in a news release. “It seemed such a waste; we knew we had to save them.”
As part of the “rescue mission,” the team moved green buttonwoods, sea grapes, sabal palms, wild olives and limber capers. The first tree moved was a native sabal palm more than 30 feet tall, the group said.
“We thought it was ironic that they were going to cut down these beautiful trees right next to where we were replanting our tropical island sanctuary, featuring many of the same trees,” said resident Katie Carpenter, a local filmmaker who also works on the island restoration project. “We just knew we had to find a way to rescue them and put them into our sanctuary. Because they are mature trees, they will provide good shade and stability to the upland of the island.”
Carpenter said this week that Bingham Island saw only a few small trees go down due to Irma, and the big transplants from the causeway were OK. However, there is quite a bit of debris, and Cub Scouts are helping do cleanup on the island, she said.
The group began the Audubon Islands restoration project last year. The six islands — Bingham Island is the largest — were leased to Audubon in 1942 by the Bingham, Bolton and Blossom families of Palm Beach to maintain as a wildlife sanctuary. The lease extends to 2041.
Last year, Bingham Island was a popular rallying spot for demonstrators and setup location for television crews during President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago.
Long before Trump chose his club as his “winter White House,” Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said the islands were frequently visited by herons, egrets and pelicans. Exotic invasive plants and trees have “infested” the islands and damaged bird habitat over the past several decades, he said.
“This is a win for nature and for the local volunteers,” Draper said of the rescue. “We are grateful to the Florida Department of Transportation and to the town of Palm Beach for allowing the restoration work and relocating these beautiful trees.”
Carpenter said it costs about $45,000 to relocate the trees and remove invasive species inside the sanctuary to make room for the trees. Audubon is paying for the project through a grant from the Cedar Hill Foundation in Chicago and through private donations.
“FDOT has been incredible,” Carpenter said. “Their contractors have supported us all along the way. Any time they run into some native species they have to cut, they call us to see if we want them first.”
Seen in August, the replanted sabal palms in the Audubon Islands Sanctuary are lush with new growth.
The newly replanted sabal palms in the Audubon sanctuary on Bingham Island are seen stripped down and propped up in June.