Two acres of invasive species were removed from part of Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park during the boardwalk phase of the project, but replanting will benefit the wildlife and the mangroves and encourage new growth.
The next phase of Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park project, which includes the construction of a boardwalk through the mangroves along the shoreline, is expected to be completed in a few weeks, according to officials.
“We’re looking at an early March grand opening for the Waterfront Park if everything stays on schedule,” City Manager Matt Spoor said during the January 17 City Commission meeting.
The timeframe is right in line with an earlier estimate of a late February finish for the latest phase of the multi-phased, multi-million dollar project, which began last summer after the city received a long-awaited permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The latest phase features the biggest addition to the property to date—a 2,000-linear-foot wooden boardwalk with four trailheads that begins at the north end of the park and winds through the mangroves and along the shoreline before ending at the edge of the large grassy area that comprises the majority of the 13-acre parcel.
Other elements of this phase include parking and sidewalks upgrades as well as the addition of bike racks, benches and other minor amenities.
A look at the south end of the new Waterfront Park boardwalk in December 2016.
Prior to the grand opening, a massive replanting effort will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, as 200 volunteers will help fill the area where two acres of invasive species were removed during the work on the boardwalk.
Spoor noted the replanting project, which was funded with grants from the Department of Environmental Protection and assistance from Tampa Bay Watch and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, will restore vegetation in an area that had been overrun with invasive species, and thus will benefit, not harm, the mangroves.
Safety Harbor City Manager Matt Spoor.
“I know some people see the invasive, exotic species being removed and they, I guess, assume that it’s mangroves,” he said, adding, “the project that is underway…will restore two acres of invasive species that were removed, not the mangroves.”
After the meeting, Spoor went into detail about the replanting to help clear up misconceptions that had been floating around about the work that was done.
“We’ve got a massive amount of people planting new vegetation for the wetlands, and once it takes hold, it will create a better environment for the wildlife and the mangroves,” he told Safety Harbor Connect.
“Because we removed the invasive species, other mangroves will be able to grow and thrive. So it’s not damaging the wetlands, it’s actually helping them.”
Earlier, Spoor said the area where the boardwalk work took place comprised 6.4 acres of the park, five of which were not impacted at all.
Of the remaining acreage involved, he said there was a temporary impact to 1.4 acres and a permanent impact to .02 of an acre, but he added “two acres of planting are going in, which will allow for the mangroves to take over in those areas.”
Stay with Safety Harbor Connect for complete coverage of the latest Waterfront Park grand opening.
A screenshot from a drone video shot by contractor Augustine Construction in late 2016 shows the progress of the boardwalk construction at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park.
Note: An earlier version of this article listed the wrong date for the wetland planting project. It has since been corrected.