Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve and Alligator Lake Management Area projects will cost Pinellas about $2M

Volunteers Lynn Proenza, left, and Troy Tinch plant a longleaf pine beside Alligator Lake in Safety Harbor in December.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Volunteers Lynn Proenza, left, and Troy Tinch plant a longleaf pine beside Alligator Lake in Safety Harbor in December.

Years ago, people tried to tame what is now the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve and the Alligator Lake Management Area.

They straightened bends in creeks. They dug mosquito ditches.

But the "improvements" caused the deterioration of the quality of water that eventually dumps into Old Tampa Bay.

Now Pinellas County will spend about $2 million to help reverse some of the damage and restore the areas to a more natural state.

The affected properties are managed by the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management, Environmental Lands Division, steward of the county's 16,000 acres of protected terrain.

Work is expected to begin in August and take about a year to complete. The projects, which have been in the works for five years, have been permitted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and will be paid for with Penny for Pinellas tax money.

On about 35 acres of the 54-acre Alligator Lake Management Area in Safety Harbor, exotic vegetation will be uprooted and replaced with native plants, several ponds will be created and bends will be returned to the creek on the property.

"That will improve the water quality going into the lake which goes into the bay," said Stephen Raymond, mid county land manager for the county's Department of Environmental Management.

He added the improvements will help the birds that live on the area's two nesting islands and give them a more pristine habitat to "hang out and forage."

On part of the 400-acre Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve in Oldsmar, exotic vegetation also will be replaced with Florida greenery. Mosquito ditches and a main channel will be filled in, and a stormwater ditch will be improved.

"We will be improving the flow of water going into and out of the bayou system," Raymond said. "We refer to it as flushing. We're trying to make the system flush better."

During construction, there will be limited boater access to the shoreline of the preserve.

Mike McDonald, president of the Clearwater Audubon board of directors, said projects such as the ones at Alligator Lake and Mobbly Bayou are "long overdue."

He said human activity has had "a severe impact" on wildlife and is glad "we understand now how interconnected everything is."

"We need to make efforts to preserve biodiversity."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

fast facts

To learn more

There will be two public meetings where experts will share information about the projects with the public:

July 14: A forum about the Alligator Lake Management Area will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Safety Harbor Public Library, 101 Second St. N.

July 16: A forum about the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Bicentennial Recreational Center, 423 Lafayette Blvd., Oldsmar.

For more information: Visit www.pinellascounty.org/environment or call (727) 453-6900.

Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve and Alligator Lake Management Area projects will cost Pinellas about $2M 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 8:32pm]

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