June 13, 2018

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Pete Frezza, a Florida Keys resident for nearly two decades, now works as environmental resources manager for Islamorada. His purview includes keeping tabs on the Plantation Tropical Preserve adjacent to Founders Park.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Pete Frezza, a Florida Keys resident for nearly two decades, now works as environmental resources manager for Islamorada. His purview includes keeping tabs on the Plantation Tropical Preserve adjacent to Founders Park.

ISLAMORADA — Even as a professional Florida Keys birder, Pete Frezza still savors his time in Islamorada’s Plantation Tropical Preserve.

“It’s my favorite place to come birding,” Frezza said last Wednesday, strolling beneath towering native trees that grow thick on the tract adjoining Founders Park. “These trees are just amazing.”

A flock of white-crowned pigeons suddenly took wing, weaving through dappled sunlight amid the boughs. “See what I mean?” Frezza laughed. 

“Keys hammocks are dense with growth, so it can be really tough to get through them. Here, the trails make it easy and there’s plenty of space between the trees to see the birds,” he said. “These are big native hardwood trees, on a good-sized parcel that’s in good condition.”

Frezza knows Plantation Tropical Preserve well from his two-decade career as Keys research manager for Audubon Florida’s Tavernier Science Center. 

Now his new job as Islamorada’s environmental resources manager is to keep the site safe, along with the municipality’s four other nature preserves.

“It’s a natural fit,” Frezza said. “I live here and want to see our resources protected.” 

Frezza has been tapped by Village Manager Seth Lawless to oversee “planning, directing and implementing programs involving the management of Islamorada’s natural resources to encourage environmental resource preservation and maintenance.”

After two decades with Audubon in the Keys, his first job out of college, Frezza said it was time “for the next stage of my career.”

“It’s an opportunity to contribute in a different way,” said the Islamorada homeowner. “I’ll still use the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years. Now I get to apply it in a different way, but there are lot of the same issues.”

His responsibilities with the village also cover seeking funds for conservation-lands purchases and related capital projects, overseeing Islamorada’s canal restoration efforts, working with the public and other government agencies, keeping the Islamorada habitat map current, and reviewing development plans that could have significant conservation impacts.

“I’m excited for the position. I won’t do as much research and monitoring, but I’m able to keep working on environmental projects,” Frezza said.  

kwadlow@keysnews.com