The city of Dunedin continues to add to its environmental credentials, buoyed by a city manager, mayor and City Commission who support the preservation of open space and understand the importance of "green" projects that will help heal our damaged ecology.
As the St. Petersburg Times reported recently, the next big project is bringing water back to parched Hammock Park.
Because of its out-of-the-way location, many Pinellas residents may not have discovered Hammock Park, and some who do go there may not realize what makes it so interesting. It is a dense, old hardwood forest, unique for its location so close to the coastline. It has 100-year-old trees, including stands of tall sweet bays, which are becoming rare in the area. The approximately 80-acre park on San Mateo Drive off Bayshore Boulevard in north Dunedin, has several trails and reports some 100 species of birds.
While parts of Hammock Park are thriving, the eastern side is dying of thirst. In the 1960s and early '70s, before environmental laws prevented such behavior, the city dug channels in the area to drain land so houses could be built around the park. The channels changed the flow of stormwater in and through the park, drying out areas that were once wet. In fact, the original 1846 survey of the park area labels it a "wet swamp."
When the water receded, trees and plants that thrived in the swamp were left with their roots high and dry. They are dying, and species that like a dry foundation are taking over. Man's interference is turning the eastern side of the park into something that was never intended.
Through a project now under way, a small dam will be built to raise the water level and restore the wetland ecosystem. The work also will reduce erosion that occurs in certain areas now and will reduce the amount of sediment that flows into Cedar Creek and St. Joseph Sound.
Despite the struggling economy, Dunedin continues to find ways to carry out environmental projects it considers important.
With the opening of its new Community Center, Dunedin became one of the first communities in Pinellas to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for a public building.
Through creative financing deals, the city was able to purchase and preserve the so-called Weaver property, almost 7 acres of mostly undeveloped land on both sides of Bayshore Boulevard just north of downtown. The city continues to seek other waterfront land it can preserve as open space for the public.
The city staff and elected officials deserve congratulations for their environmental stewardship on these projects.