A Living Laboratory in our Own Backyard

by Yvette Bone

Residents invited to enjoy and partner with Holton Eco-Preserve

In September of 2015, the Holton Eco-Preserve debuted its family gardens to The Corridor community, offering 64 rentable garden beds and a host of free and paid classes to help local residents learn more about organic and clean gardening practices.

The family gardens were just one portion of the overall master plan and vision of the Holton Eco-Preserve. Today, just a year later, 36 additional garden beds have been added to meet demand, the Preserve continues to be restored to its natural habitat, hiking trails are being added, educational offerings have expanded, and special places are being designated for children’s programs.

The mission of the Holton Eco-Preserve is to protect green space along the Daniels corridor that residents of all ages can enjoy – a living laboratory for exploration and hands on experience. It is a place where the whole family can learn how to love nature, live lightly on the earth and grow organic produce throughout the year.

With all the demolition and building going on in our community, it’s easy to see why the Preserve is important. And while the gardens are a great way for area residents to be part of the Preserve, Director Peg Eisenberg hopes people will connect more deeply through the many programs and outdoor environments.

“We want residents of this area – young and old – to come here and enjoy the property and learn from what we offer,” she said. “Whether through education, children’s programming, or workshops for HOA’s, we want the community to know we are here to support them and show them the practices of conserving our resources, our land, and our earth.”

One of the most natural ways this is done is through the restoration of the entire Holton Eco-Preserve to a native habitat that utilizes Florida-friendly landscaping. Invasive plants were moved out before the gardens went in, and different kinds of native habitats are being planted around the property. Visitors can not only experience and enjoy each habitat, but also learn to replicate it in their own yard.

As no surprise to the managers of the Preserve, a slow but steady influx of animals have come back since the invasive vegetation has been removed. Visitors can now see otters playing in the pond, blue birds nesting and other species thriving. They next hope to attract Purple Martins back on the property using donated birdhouses and bird-attracting plants.

Future phases of the Holton Eco-Preserve include installing a playground and learning center for kids, adding space for youth summer camps that teach environmental stewardship, organized evening stargazing and fire pit programs, and expanding the list of community events and classes.

A trail around the grounds is partially developed and will continue to be worked on for those looking for serene places to hike, with opportunities for both self-guided and paid tours.

Among the many other exciting plans in the works are:

  • Homeschooling programs
  • Green living and rain barrel workshops
  • Florida Yard and Neighborhood™ classes (geared toward HOAs and homeowners)
  • Multiple specialty gardens, including hummingbird/butterfly, fragrance and sensory gardens
  • Edible landscaping classes

The Preserve is hoping to raise funds for these projects through a new family membership program that would allow area residents to partner with the ongoing restoration and preservation of the green space. While the grounds are always free to walk on and visit, a family membership of just $35 per year provides the opportunity to attend any of the several classes offered each month for free or at a substantial discount, discounts on products sold at classes, and free entry to major environmental events offered in October, February and May. Most importantly, a membership allows residents to link arms with the Holton Eco-Preserve in its mission to protect natural green space along the Daniels Corridor.

Vision partner and master gardener teacher at the Preserve, Adrienne Diaz, emphasizes the importance of this space. “I want to drive as many people that live along Daniels to this space as possible,” she said. “They need to know what is going on – it’s some really great stuff being done by a small group of people who have a vision for an entire community for generations to come. And, it’s right in their own backyard!”

Annual memberships are available by visiting www.holtonecopreserve.com or calling Peg Eisenberg at 239-826-0475. Guests are welcome to visit the grounds at any time. Those interested in volunteering or learning more about native habitats and preservation are welcome to work alongside other like-minded souls should call Eisenberg or email her at Pegger103@hotmail.com for more information.

The Holton Eco-Preserve is located on the north and east sides of the Unitarian Universalist Church located at 13411 Shire Lane in Fort Myers.


  • The Holton Eco-Preserve / UU Church is a drop-off site for Worden Farms CSA.
  • The Holton Eco-Preserve is a green space supported by the IFAS master gardener and master naturalist programs, and the FGCU colloquium program for volunteer hours.
  • The Holton family donated the land for the purpose of preservation to the Unitarian Church.
  • The preserve is approximately eight acres and a seasonal wetland area.


October 1:

Herb Day Festival celebrating the Year of the Pepper. Lots of fun activities for everyone, including a lady bug release, artisan type farmer’s market, vendors, speakers and more. Entry is $12 per person or $15 per family or free to HEP members.

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