Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cockroach Bay fans ask: Is popularity always good?


A group of South Shore residents envision a unified, improved Cockroach Bay preserve.

They want to end the propeller scars that cut through precious sea grass. They want the wildlife to thrive. They want an umbrella organization to oversee the agencies that manage the region.

But they diverge on one point.

Some members of the newly formed Friends of Uzita Heritage Park want the area — much of which is being restored — to be left as largely unspoiled preserve. Others hope it becomes an attraction that draws tourists from across the globe.

Some historians say the preserve is near the location where Hernando De Soto landed in 1539.

"People will come from all over the world to see something that's historical," said one of the group's leaders, Fred Jacobsen.

Jacobsen and local crabber Gus Muench led the group's meeting last week at the SouthShore Regional Library. They're seeking to unite the region — which is managed by several state, county and regional groups — under one organization.

The umbrella organization wouldn't relieve the agencies of their duties, but it could coordinate management and enforcement, Muench said.

"It's too fragmented," he said. "You really can't get something accomplished that way."

Muench hopes that with a unified voice, the agencies could more successfully apply for grants, enforce sea grass protection and provide amenities for visitors.

About a dozen people attended the meeting. They discussed calling the region a park, a preserve or a conservation area. They decided against "park" because it evoked images of sporting fields and bright lights, which don't have a place in Cockroach Bay, the group's members said.

But when Muench listed the amenities he wants, some attendees disagreed.

He said he'd like to see restrooms and more boat launch sites, trails and picnic areas.

"That scares me because it makes me think of Fort De Soto," said attendee Bob Minthorn. "I hope it doesn't go in that direction."

Minthorn sees the region more as preserve land, not a park with concrete picnic structures and grills. The lack of conveniences now discourage many people from visiting, he said, which lends itself to more of a preserve.

But Muench said the amenities would better serve those who visit.

"You can't stop them from going," he said. "The question is how you manage it."

Mariella Smith, a local Sierra Club member, nodded as Minthorn spoke. She said the bay would still draw tourists even without lots of amenities, much like Everglades National Park.

She said that because local groups have invested millions to restore the bay, they should work to preserve it. But she hopes the public will be able to enjoy the area through low-impact additions, such as hiking trails and kayak launch sites.

"Contrary to what some people believe about environmentalists like me, we don't want to put up a fence around all the preserves and keep the people out," she said. "We really want the public to have access to the land and enjoy it."

In the end, the group decided to compromise by trying to get the land labeled a "conservation area," a mix between park and preserve.

Muench and Jacobsen plan to find an employee of the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department to serve as a liaison between their group and the county. The group will meet monthly until its vision becomes a reality.

"We'll keep plugging away at it," Muench said. "I think eventually something will happen."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

If you go

Friends of Uzita Heritage Park meeting

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12.

Where: SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way in Ruskin.

Cockroach Bay fans ask: Is popularity always good? 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle