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Brooker Creek plan raises environmental worries

Brooker Creek Preserve management plan This map and key shows what could be allowed in the future in the Brooker Creek Preserve. Here’s the explanation for the key: Preservation: No development allowed. Preservation/resource management: Allows facilities and structures for natural resource and wildlife management, resource-based recreation (formerly called passive recreation), environmental education, nature trails and boardwalks, observation towers and surface water management facilities that are compatible with the management plan. Potable water resource overlay (PWR-1): Allows wellfields and nonvertical water supply infrastructure — like wells, pipes and pumps — on lands owned by Pinellas County Utilities or Tampa Bay Water.  Potable water resource overlay (PWR-2): Allows everything in PWR-1, plus other water supply-related buildings up to 60 feet high, as well as parking and other improvements on up to 260 acres.

Special to the Times

Brooker Creek Preserve management plan This map and key shows what could be allowed in the future in the Brooker Creek Preserve. Here’s the explanation for the key: Preservation: No development allowed. Preservation/resource management: Allows facilities and structures for natural resource and wildlife management, resource-based recreation (formerly called passive recreation), environmental education, nature trails and boardwalks, observation towers and surface water management facilities that are compatible with the management plan. Potable water resource overlay (PWR-1): Allows wellfields and nonvertical water supply infrastructure — like wells, pipes and pumps — on lands owned by Pinellas County Utilities or Tampa Bay Water. Potable water resource overlay (PWR-2): Allows everything in PWR-1, plus other water supply-related buildings up to 60 feet high, as well as parking and other improvements on up to 260 acres.

EAST LAKE — The current plan to manage Brooker Creek Preserve was adopted 15 years ago.

It's time for an update.

While the plan — a blueprint for operating, restoring and protecting the 8,000-acre preserve — has been praised by most of the groups that have reviewed it, there have been some concerns.

Among the issues raised:

• The plan leaves the preserve open to future water pumping, not only for potable water but also to water golf courses, to reduce potable water demand.

• Utilities structures up to 60 feet tall would be allowed on 260 preserve acres purchased by the utilities department north of Keystone Road.

The proposed plan was the focus of discussion at a meeting Thursday of Pinellas County's Environmental Science Forum, an advisory group made up of representatives from organizations and private individuals with environmental knowledge and interests.

The part of the plan generating the most controversy was developed by the county's planning department. They proposed allowing the utilities department to reserve the right to develop up to 260 acres to meet water needs north of Keystone Road.

Projects could rise as tall as 60 feet and could include a reservoir.

South of Keystone, the utilities department could develop wells and build structures needed for well fields, such as pumps and pump housing. It also could pump water to reduce the need for potable water use, including watering golf courses with preserve water instead of potable water.

The environmental science forum has vigorously opposed using preserve water for private uses such as golf courses.

County officials are responding to some concerns. On Friday, they said they were considering adopting a more restrictive use for the eastern third of the area north of Keystone, because it includes a prized sandhill habitat.

The plan has also created unease among neighbors in Crescent Oaks subdivision, who dislike the idea of 60-foot-tall structures built so close to their homes. So the Council of North County Neighborhoods has asked the county to give all the land north of Keystone Road the same restrictions as proposed for south of Keystone.

And the council asked that any projects built north of Keystone be set back at least 500 feet.

County officials voiced their own concerns at Thursday's meeting. They raised issues with the proposed Oldsmar Trail, which would run through the southern part of preserve, saying it will be in a remote location with limited staff, which raises questions about security and fire safety.

In response, forum co-chair Doug Robison suggested limiting public access to the preserve to the environmental education center and the trails at the south end of Lora Lane.

The idea did not sit well with Oldsmar leisure services director Lynn Rives.

"We spent the money to put a park at the end of the preserve with the future plan to have a connection to hiking trails in the preserve," he said. County officials have supported the idea in the past, he added.

On Tuesday, the public is invited to review the draft plan and comment from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the preserve's environmental education center, 3940 Keystone Road.

IF YOU GO

EAST LAKE – Pinellas County invites the public to a meeting on a draft Brooker Creek Preserve management plan update from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, 3940 Keystone Road. Comments are welcome. Find the plan online at pinellascounty.org/scienceforum/scienceforum_topics.htm, then click on DRAFT BCP Mgmt. Plan 2008 Update. Call (727)453-6800.

>>IF YOU GO

Public welcome

Pinellas County invites the public to a meeting on a draft Brooker Creek management plan update from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, 3940 Keystone Road. Comments are welcome. Find the plan online at pinellascounty.org/scienceforum/scienceforum_topics.htm, then click on DRAFT BCP Mgmt. Plan 2008 Update. Call (727)453-6800.

Brooker Creek plan raises environmental worries 06/07/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 7, 2008 3:23pm]
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