Clearing of the Australian pines and other non-native plants is expected to continue for the next two weeks on Fullerton Island, a deserted 12-acre parcel scheduled to become an aquatics preserve for kayakers and small boaters.
“We found a big beehive in a tree. But other than that, there hasn’t been much wildlife out here,” said Clint Hodges, speaking above a 15-ton excavator yanking out 30-foot-tall trees and piles of Brazilian pepper from the Intracoastal Waterway island just west of Burt Reynolds Park.
After the final non-native stumps and bushes are uprooted, they will lie on the sand to dry in the sun for about three weeks, said Hodges, a supervisor with Lake Worth-based Arbor Tree & Land, the company clearing the land.
The debris will then be placed in a covered eight-foot-deep fire box dug in the island. When the debris is lit, air is rapidly blown onto the fire box to fan the flames. The higher the temperature, the less pollution from emissions.
The burning will be done during the day only and is expected to be finished in less than two weeks, said Julie Bishop, an environmental program supervisor with Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.
“The logs and plants will burn hot, fast and clean. We’ve used this process at Munyon and Peanut islands,” Bishop said.
Fullerton Island plans call for a daytime public dock for about six small motorized boats. A water taxi stop is scheduled to give non-boaters access to a covered picnic area. No running water, boardwalk, electricity or restrooms are planned.
The island, once proposed for a luxury single-family home development, was bought by the town for $2.9 million in 2008.
The $2.1 million project is scheduled to be finished next summer, Bishop said.
Plans call for grading the level of the island for wetland preservation to promote growth for native plants and increase water flow. That grading will create about 5 acres of wetlands that will accessible for kayaks and small boats.
The sand from the grading — about 60,000 cubic yards — will be floated by barge south on the Intracoastal Waterway later this summer to Bryant Park, where it will be used in a restoration project just south of the Lake Worth Bridge.
Plans at Fullerton Island call for planting about 3,000-knee-high mangrove seedlings on 5 acres.
Meandering aquatic paths are planned to wind through the island. Oak trees, many 60 feet tall, have nests for eagles and ospreys, said Carolyn Beisner, senior environmental analyst at the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management.
“Those trees are amazing. The trunks are so big you can hardly get your arms around them,” Bishop said.