SEMINOLE — Neighbors were stunned last year when St. Petersburg College officials appeared to be decimating the campus' wetlands.
But the college was merely clearing out invasive species as a first step to building a wildlife habitat and environmental center on the campus.
"Some of the native species have already been growing back, but there is lot of area formerly covered with invasives that now has essentially no ground cover," said Jim Olliver, provost of the Seminole campus. "We have been looking for ways to address restoration and replanting on the site."
The first step is scheduled for Saturday when volunteers will begin planting slash pines — 1,000 of them — around the perimeter of the wetlands along the 102nd Avenue and Ridge Road edges of the property. They'll be planted 12 feet to 15 feet apart, and the goal is to plant them all on Saturday.
The volunteers are all college-related and will include Ph.D.s as well as landscapers.
The baby trees — each between 12 and 18 inches tall — come from the state Division of Forestry. The whole batch of 1,000 will cost the college $168.
"They're dirt cheap," said Jim Waechter, director of facilities services at the Seminole campus. Even better, he said, being native, they won't require any maintenance. They'll be planted and left to themselves.
It will take 15 years for the trees to fully mature, but Waechter said they should reach 6 to 7 feet tall within the next couple of years.
"Then they take off after that," he said.
In the next few months, the college will start building a habitat trail on the southern portion of the 63- to 65-acre site. The trail should be finished by late summer.
The clearing of invasive species, replanting of native plants and the habitat trail are just the beginnings of a larger plan for the Seminole campus.
The area will serve as a park for students, employees and area residents to enjoy as a passive green zone and informal classroom. But it will also be the site of an Environmental Center for classroom presentations and as an outdoor laboratory for environmental education.
The Nature Park and Environmental Center would also serve as a big part of an Environmental Science Technology Program the college wants to develop.
Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.