Recognizing the value of estuaries, Florida moved to protect coastal and inland waters through the Aquatic Preserves Act in 1975. The Act designates exceptional areas of state-owned submerged lands as Aquatic Preserves to be preserved “in an essentially natural or existing condition so that their aesthetic, biological, and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations.” Today there are over 40 Preserves throughout the state including the Charlotte Harbor Preserves: Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound/Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass.
Follow the narrows of Lemon Bay to the open waters of Charlotte Harbor through the maze of islands and quiet backwaters along the dense mangrove shorelines of Cape Haze, Pine Island Sound, and Matlacha Pass. Beautiful, dynamic and biologically productive, the Charlotte Harbor estuaries support a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life from microscopic plankton and filter-feeding worms to large marine mammals such as dolphins and manatees. Over 200 species of fishes abound here. Many people enjoy fishing, boating, and canoeing the inshore waters comprising the Charlotte Harbor estuarine complex.
The Friends of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, Inc was established in 1995 by a group of conscientious residents for the purpose in raising funds to provide material support to Aquatic Preserve and Parks staff as well as for assisting in the maintenance and restoration of preserve and park lands. Since that time the Friends have donated thousands of volunteer hours eradicating invasive exotic plants on park lands, cleaning up thousands of pounds of trash and debris in the aquatic preserves, thousands of hours providing environmental education to our visitors and residents alike and thousands of dollars in funds raised for volunteer water quality monitoring equipment and supplies as well as habitat restoration materials and equipment support for staff. Please consider joining the board and share your ideas for Preserve and Parks management!