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Bat tower set for Scout Park in Temple Terrace

The original bat tower built on the Hillsborough River in the 1920s was damaged by arson in 1979 and deteriorated over time. Bat expert Charles Campbell designed the tower to provide a home for the voracious mosquito eaters at a time when malaria was still a problem in Florida. 

Times files (2009)

The original bat tower built on the Hillsborough River in the 1920s was damaged by arson in 1979 and deteriorated over time. Bat expert Charles Campbell designed the tower to provide a home for the voracious mosquito eaters at a time when malaria was still a problem in Florida. 

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned, as the sun sets a swarm of bats will pour out of an odd-looking obelisk at Scout Park.

That setting, amid moss-draped oaks near the banks of the Hillsborough River, was chosen by Temple Terrace City Council this week as the site of the city's new bat tower, a reproduction of a city landmark that was built in the mid 1920s in hopes that the mosquito-eating mammals would effectively combat malaria.

Scout Park, at the southern bend of the river, which serves as the city limit, was chosen over two other locations, Rotary Park and a spot near the tennis courts in Riverhills Park, which city staff had recommended for the 40-foot tower. Tim Lancaster, leading the effort, said he hopes to get the $40,000 structure built by October of next year as originally planned, but delays in the site selection may push the date to early 2015.

The Scout Park choice came after weeks of debate between bat tower proponents and residents fearing that the creatures will be a nuisance, emitting an unpleasant odor and spreading disease. The council abandoned the original site, near the boat ramp in Riverhills Park, after neighbors appeared before them en masse to complain.

Though the tower could accommodate as many as 600,000 bats, it's likely the council will require that the roosting area inside be built to greatly limit its capacity. Council member Alison Fernandez suggested 50,000 to start with. Council member Grant Rimbey, a longtime promoter of the tower, suggested 200,000.

The Scout Park location is 240 feet from the nearest residence, according to Lancaster, president of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society.

Nick Hall, who lives near Scout Park, told the council that he knows the tower is a historical icon, but he worries about the effect that runoff from bat droppings will have on the river. He pointed out that bat guano is high in nitrates, which cause algae that chokes lakes and rivers. Though the bat guano will be collected in a hopper, and possibly sold as fertilizer, Hall said some nitrate-rich runoff will end up in the river, "which in my opinion is the true icon of Temple Terrace.''

Fernandez, who sits on the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board, said that no one on the board or its technical advisory staff expressed concern about nitrates from the bat tower.

"Obviously, the City of Tampa, (the river) is a big concern for them; this is their source of drinking water. They also had no objections to this structure being located on the river bank.''

Downtown Temple Terrace project

In other action at Tuesday's meeting, City Manager Gerald Seeber announced that after a series of private meetings with the developer of Downtown Temple Terrace, the city's negotiating team will try again to work out an agreement to get the stalled project started again.

The city's team — Mayor Frank Chillura, city attorney Mark Connolly and Seeber — had been meeting with Vlass Temple Terrace to discuss how to end their business arrangement without resorting to a lawsuit, according to earlier statements by Connolly.

Vlass and the city have disagreed over many details of the $160 million retail-residential-cultural center on the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.

Seeber told council members that if an agreement is reached, he would present the proposal to them for approval.

Philip Morgan can be reached at pmorgan@tampabay.com.

Bat tower set for Scout Park in Temple Terrace 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 2:16pm]

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