Thursday, February 22, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: It's shrieks versus squeaks in Temple Terrace

Across the bay in St. Petersburg there is great community frothing over a proposal to blow up the semi-iconic inverted pyramid Pier (otherwise known as the Dump) and replace it with the Lens, designed by world-famous architect Michael Maltzan.

In Tampa at times there have also been fractious debates among the body politic over where to put a hotsy-totsy art museum.

Then there is Temple Terrace, which is considering its own public works project to construct — ahem — a bat tower.

I don't know about you, but in all the years I've lived here and spent time in Temple Terrace, not once have I ever thought to myself: "Gadzooks! What Temple Terrace really needs to put itself on the map is one huge, honking bat tower. Yep, that's the ticket to attract all those tourists wasting their time and money down the street at Busch Gardens when they could be experiencing the thrill of fending off rats with wings. Yep, we'd be having way big fun now!"

At the moment Temple Terrace city staff — both of them — are busy exploring possible sites for a nearly $50,000 tower capable of holding 600,000 bats at any one time.

Apparently Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura suggested the study was necessary after angry residents appeared at a June City Council meeting to essentially ask: "A bat tower? Are you people certifiably insane? We don't need no stinking bat tower." Pitchforks optional.

Temple Terrace once had a bat tower back in the 1920s with the idea in mind that the bats would eat malaria-carrying mosquitoes. But that was before stuff like bug spray came along. The old bat tower met its demise in 1979 when an arsonist torched it. What a (cough) pity.

Apparently the proponents of the bat tower argue that this thing would be a tourist attraction pile-driving machine by noting that at least 24 people show up at sunset on the campus of nearby University of South Florida to watch bats fly out of the school's two bat towers. Now there's some market research due diligence for you.

You have to wonder if the pro-bat types considered that maybe all those folks watching the USF winged rodents flying around are simply poor students living on ramen noodles who don't have much else to do to amuse themselves.

As the Tampa Bay Times' Philip Morgan reported, Temple Terrace council member David Pogorilich noted that it was important for the city to ask the citizenry for bat feedback. Substantial numbers of those very citizens appeared before the council to suggest that erecting a bat tower to accommodate more than half a million bats in a growing residential area makes about as much sense as creating a python preserve in the middle of the city.

The people have indeed spoken, even if most of what they had to say is unprintable.

It is certainly true that bats are sort of interesting critters. And they are certainly a valid topic for scientific research. All fair enough.

But building a bat tower that will possibly attract hundreds of thousands of bats, who must invariably answer nature's call on the populace of Temple Terrace, does not strike one as particularly prudent constituent service.

Cannot an argument be made that if one feels compelled to study the habits of bats there are already plenty of them buzzing around USF to observe?

Or is there something else at work here? A fiendish plot by Gotham-on-the-Hillsborough to boodle away USF's bats?

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