Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve on Eleuthera

Interview with Dr. Ethan Freid

Lead Botanist at Leon Levy Plant Preserve

“All of the prep work was done by hand. No bulldozers were brought in to clear the land.....”
Dr. Ethan Freid

Q - How long have you been working on the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, Ethan?

A - I started working on the project in March 2006. It took almost three years to complete the land purchase and get the preliminary budget in place. We then officially broke ground January 2009. Site preparation and construction lasted a little over two years.

Q - You obviously spent a lot of time on building the Preserve and it really shows. Based on what I saw and photographed, it looks like a lot of hard work went into this – couldn’t have been easy. My hat’s off to you. Can you give us some sort of general scope of the project in terms of what it took to physically put it together?

A - We spent over 18 months just prepping the site for construction. We had to remove invasive plant species, rubble, and trash as well as move four large coconuts and dig out our wetland. During that time we also laid out all the trails. All of the prep work was done by hand. No bulldozers were brought in to clear the land. For a project like this one we made a conscious decision about each and every tree or shrub that needed to be trimmed or moved on the site. Additionally we spent a lot of time wandering around the site getting a sense of place; just thinking about how visitors would move around the site and how they would use it. And then of course there was the physical construction and having to bring in large vehicles and equipment without damaging the existing vegetation.

Q - What would you say are the “must see” features of the Preserve and which of those features were most difficult to assemble?

Oh that is a tough question as there are a lot of things that I myself feel are must see when I come to the Preserve. My two top favorites are the Tower and the mangrove boardwalk. The tower sits up on a 55 foot hill and is 20 feet high. When you are there it feels like being in a tree house but with an awesome 360 degree view of the island. Also the construction guys did an outstanding job of building a truly beautiful structure. This one was also one of the more difficult features to assemble. It is deep in the coppice and that meant it took a lot of effort to get materials to the site and then construct it only using hand tools. No cranes, no trucks and no fork lifts.

Eleuthera Observation Tower
Lookout Tower View