Hundreds turn out to install thousands of plants at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park

Roughly 200 volunteers turned out to help with a community planting project that saw more than 10,000 new plants installed at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Roughly 200 volunteers turned out to help with a community planting project that saw more than 10,000 new plants installed at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Roughly 200 volunteers turned out to help with a community planting project that saw more than 10,000 new plants installed at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park on Saturday.

The massive group effort, led by city officials and staff in conjunction with the nonprofit Tampa Bay Watch and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, featured the installation of 13,000 plants in the upland and lowland areas surrounding the new, 2,000-linear-foot boardwalk that is being constructed along the northeastern shoreline of the park. The boardwalk is scheduled to open in March.

City of Safety Harbor engineer Michelle Giuliani (l) helps with the Waterfront Park planting project on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

City of Safety Harbor engineer Michelle Giuliani (l) helps with the Waterfront Park planting project on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

According to city engineer Michelle Giuliani, the project was made possible by a Tampa Bay Estuary Grant, which allowed for the clearing out of invasive species and the replanting of new, native vegetation at the site.

“The City of Safety Harbor received a Tampa Bay Estuary Grant in the amount of $45,000 for the removal of invasive species and debris, and for earthwork and grading of the disturbed mangrove habitat area that totaled approximately two acres of Waterfront Park,” Giuliani told Safety Harbor Connect.

“The Tampa Bay Estuary Grant requirement included the City’s coordination of volunteers to assist in the replanting effort,” she added. “On Saturday, approximately 200 volunteers including City of Safety Harbor staff, Tampa Bay Watch Environmental Scientists, and Tampa Bay Estuary Environmental Scientists, assisted in planting approximately 13,000 wetland and upland plants at the Waterfront Park.”

The call to assist with the planting brought a flurry of people looking to contribute, leading to what another city official described as the biggest volunteer efforts in recent history.

“In my 22 years here, this is the largest restoration planting that’s ever been done,” Leisure Services Director Andrea Norwood said. “And it will have the most impact.”

“The collaboration of agencies, including Tampa Bay Watch, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and several city departments, all came together to create a great event for the environment.”

Indeed the replanting, which took up about half the allotted three-hour timeframe and featured City Commissioners Janet Hooper and Carlos Diaz, Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow and City Manager Matt Spoor digging in the mud, will not only improve the scenery, but will greatly benefit the plants and wildlife at the park.

Volunteers from several community organizations, including former Countryside High School marine biology teacher Patti Boylan (second from left) pose at the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park planting project on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Volunteers from several community organizations, including former Countryside High School teacher and current Tampa Bay Watch member Patti Boylan (second from left) pose at the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park planting project on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2017.

“The cord grass that was planted helps hold down the soil and prevent erosion and helps stabilize the area and provide food,” Patti Boylan, a former Marine Biology teacher at Countryside High and longtime Tampa Bay Watch member, said.

“And the mangroves (that were planted) will fill in around the existing mangroves to form a healthy, natural environment free of invasive species.”

Safety Harbor Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow got dirty during the community planting project at the Waterfront Park.

Safety Harbor Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow at the Waterfront Park planting project.

City arborist Art Finn concurred, stating, “Eventually the mangroves and cord grass will grow in, and you’ll have a beautiful wetland and upland here.”

While Finn said it could take upwards of three years for the some of the new plants to reach maturity, Zodrow, an environmental attorney, said the impact from Saturday’s community effort will be felt long before that.

“It was great to get this kind of engagement with the community,” the vice-mayor said as he prepared to eat some of the food provided by Honey Baked Ham. “And the environmental benefits will make for a great addition to the Waterfront Park.”

Giuliani echoed those thoughts.

“The community-driven effort not only provided the needed site stabilization for long-term mangrove habitat success, but also provided an opportunity for environmental education and created a sense of community within the City,” she said.

Enjoy this photo gallery from Saturday’s planting effort at the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park:

 

5 Comments
  1. Paul 3 years ago
    • Pamela 3 years ago
  2. Gisela 3 years ago
  3. Skip Meadows 3 years ago
  4. Carol McNamee 3 years ago

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *