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St. Petersburg’s Round Lake is nearly dry. Here’s why

The city is considering applying for a permit to refill the lake.
A look at dry conditions at the Historic Round Lake Park in St. Petersburg on Monday.
A look at dry conditions at the Historic Round Lake Park in St. Petersburg on Monday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Mar. 15, 2022|Updated Mar. 15, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Historic Round Lake has been drying up since November because of the dry winter — and a broken pump that wasn’t supposed to be pumping into the lake in the first place.

The pump was installed at the lake in the Historic Uptown neighborhood west of Fourth Street N near downtown in the 1970s, but the Southwest Florida Water Management District now prohibits pumping water into lakes. The city didn’t realize that until workers discovered the pump had broken on Nov. 30.

The city spent $9,900 to have the pump fixed Thursday, though it is only being used for irrigation around the lake. City spokesperson Janelle Irwin Taylor said the city is considering applying for a permit to refill the lake, but said they are not sure if they will be successful.

City officials say Round Lake is not considered “environmentally significant” because it does not foster a larger ecosystem, like Lake Maggiore. While Round Lake has been a popular gathering spot for generations of St. Petersburg residents, it is believed to be man-made.

“We were operating against regulation,” Irwin Taylor said. “That pump should not have been used for that purpose.”

The majority of Round Lake’s water comes from rainfall that flows into the lake through the city drainage system. Round Lake is connected to Mirror Lake. It sits at a higher elevation, so it flows to Mirror Lake when its water levels are higher. Round Lake is also depleted before Mirror Lake would be depleted.

The city is working on action plans specific to each lake in the city, though that will take a few years. Irwin Taylor said water quality problems have never been reported at Round Lake.

Residents and visitors who frequent Round Lake have been noticing its receding water levels since November. It’s become a topic of conversation on the Historic Uptown Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page.

Adrian Arabitg leads Friends of Round Lake, a group of volunteers who wade into the lake to clean up trash once every three months. He canceled the latest cleanup in February because of low water.

“It’s pretty much like walking around in mud,” he said. “For about a month, we kind of just waited for more rain. It just got worse and worse. Even when it did rain, it really didn’t fill up.”

A dry conditions are seen at the Historic Round Lake Park in St. Petersburg.
A dry conditions are seen at the Historic Round Lake Park in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Arabitg was tasked with getting updates from the city about Round Lake. He’d post to Facebook, where comments would flood with thanks.

“The biggest thing for us is, it’s the center of our neighborhood,” he said. “It’s our area of nature and wildlife. It’s nice to go down there and see the birds and the crayfish and the fish.”

Kristy Andersen, an Uptown resident and documentary filmmaker, has been documenting the history of Round Lake. She said the neighborhood was platted in 1888, and Round Lake was more of a destination than what Williams Park is today. A trolley car would go down 7th Avenue N, once known as Florida Avenue, past the lake.

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Andersen said fishing contests and festival pageants would be held between the giant oak trees, and green benches would be brought in. There would be a stage on Round Lake with curtains three stories high swaying in the breeze.

“Round lake was a very significant social part of the city,” she said. “Everyone wants to know what’s going on. I think it speaks to the passion the neighborhood has for the lake that so many people were concerned.”