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Clam Bayou is worth preserving

Too many times, residents have spots of regret in their cities, places where an old building stood or a lovely stretch of woods and beach yielded to development. St. Petersburg has a few of those spots, although the city has taken great care to preserve its waterfront. Now St. Petersburg has a chance to help save the natural habitat of Clam Bayou, which would benefit the city and neighboring Gulfport. St. Petersburg officials should seize this chance if the costs are manageable.

The Sierra Club used Earth Day last week to show members of the St. Petersburg City Council just how much there is to lose if the area around Clam Bayou is developed. Most of the bayou is in Gulfport but the uplands in question stretch into southwest St. Petersburg. The club wants the city to acquire and maintain 40 of the 140 acres of environmentally sensitive land around the bayou. The club owns 20 acres and the Southwest Florida Water Management District is negotiating with a developer to buy 80 acres. The rest is privately owned, and the club fears it will be developed.

Many creatures call Clam Bayou and its environs home. Brown pelicans nest atop trees, and otter, osprey, dolphins and manatees put in appearances. Bald eagles occasionally fly overhead. They all need the habitat of the bayou to survive. So do humans. One of the best things about Clam Bayou is that it is a spot of solitude and beauty very close to downtown St. Petersburg. That alone makes it worth protecting because it gives urban people a chance to know wildlife and its habitat.

Gulfport and the Sierra Club are committed to saving the surrounds of Clam Bayou. They need St. Petersburg as a partner. The city could help research and pursue grants with which to purchase the land and then help maintain the bayou if the purchase is successful.

The city of St. Petersburg has more needs than money, granted. But it should join this effort, providing the costs don't blast skyward. It would be sad if Clam Bayou became one of those spots of regret.