FORT MYERS, Fla. — After Hurricane Ian devastated the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation's (SCCF) mangrove preserve along McGregor Boulevard, they hoped the mangrove would begin to show signs of life and growth.
They waited a year and decided it was time to help Mother Nature out.
SCCF Coastal Watch Director Kealy McNeel said, “Everyone that goes out to Sanibel and Captiva has to drive past this. It was such a horrible reminder of what Ian was.”
The clothing company, MANG, donated 1,000 mangrove trees to SCCF for volunteers to plant.
The company's mission, buy one, plant one, focuses on mangrove restoration and education.
MANG Foundation Executive Director Keith Rossin said, "We are going to come in and really kick start this area by at least 5 or 10 years and help bring the green back.”
Mangroves serve as the first line of defense for coastal communities when storms hit.
They also supply refuge to animals and stabilize the earth's sediment according to SCCF.
Rossin added, “Mangroves are the life source of Florida. We love mangroves... mangroves connect us. They connect communities and ultimately without mangroves Florida wouldn’t be the shape it is today.”
Sixty volunteers helped restore the mangroves on Saturday including 13-year-old Wade Johnson.
His passion for mangroves started years ago, and before Hurricane Ian hit, he collected mangrove tree seeds.
Those same seedlings he had grew into the small trees he got to plant on Saturday.
"Instead of just sitting somewhere and playing a game you're coming out here and you're seeing change happen, ” Johnson said.
McNeel said that SCCF appreciates the community support in restoring the local environment.
She added it takes 25 years for the mangroves to reach their maturity. They said they hope to plant more in the future.