Rock Ponds Project Recognized by Regional Planning Council

The Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project has become a showcase project for habitat restoration through community partnerships. That’s why the project was just recognized by the 
Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. 

The District won first place in the Natural Environment category in the Future of the Region Awards. The awards recognize outstanding achievements and contributions that benefit the regional community. Rock Ponds is the largest restoration project in the history of Tampa Bay and is part of the District’s Surface Water Improvement & Management (SWIM) Program. 

The project involved the restoration of approximately 1,043 acres of various coastal habitats, including 645 acres of uplands, such as pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks, and 398 acres of various estuarine and freshwater habitats. The District continues to work with volunteers on the property.

Students from Shorecrest Preparatory School recently got hands-on to plant marsh grasses at Rock Ponds. The volunteer planting occurred along an intertidal shoreline. 

This event was coordinated by Tampa Bay Watch through their Bay Grasses in Classes program in collaboration with the District’s SWIM team. 

Shorecrest Preparatory brought 79 students and seven faculty and chaperones. The volunteers installed 5,700 marsh plants, with 1,700 of those grown by the students from Shorecrest themselves. The remaining plants were harvested from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fish hatchery facility in Port Manatee by Tampa Bay Watch volunteers. 

Also present were District employees Nancy Norton, senior professional engineer, and Dr. Brandt Henningsen, chief advisory environmental scientist. 

“I see this as an investment for the future. It helps instill an environmental ethic in these students,” said Henningsen. “This is the future of the state of Florida, the United States and the world for that matter. People have to make an emotional connection for them to want to maintain and preserve these systems.”

The Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project also is a resource for educational tours. The District’s SWIM team recently gave tours to students in an ecology class from Saint Leo University and the District’s own Finance Bureau

“From a financial perspective, it is great to see the projects that come through our desks come to fruition,” said Melisa Lowe, Finance Bureau Chief. “The District goes through with so many incredible projects, and it’s amazing to see them in person.” 

To learn more about the Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project, visit