They pedaled, paddled and paraded through the pristine property.
Dubbed the bayou beyond boundaries, the newly restored Clam Bayou exemplified the success of multiple agencies coming together to restore and protect vital resources.
The District, along with officials from the Department of Transportation and the cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg, recently held a dedication ceremony for the Clam Bayou Restoration and Stormwater Project, and Skyway Trail Extension. The completion of the project marks the final step in a multi-agency effort to restore 64 acres of estuarine and coastal habitats and create 20 acres of ponds to treat stormwater runoff from the 2,600-acre area.
“This project exemplifies a lot of great work done through cooperative partnerships,” said District Governing Board member Todd Pressman.
Clam Bayou is a 170-acre preserve in Pinellas County. It is surrounded by the cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg to the north, east and west and Boca Ciega Bay to the south. About 127 acres of Clam Bayou is publicly owned.
Kayakers visit the newly-restored Clam Bayou.
Nearly 100 people attended the ceremony including local politicians and community leaders. Clam Bayou citizen and advocate Trudy Archer spoke about the long-time dedication this project took.
“If you speak long enough and loud enough, people will listen,” she said. “I’m just so proud. This place is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”
Since the 1920s, urban development around the bayou drastically altered the natural habitats and hydrology of the system. In addition, the bayou’s surrounding areas were developed prior to stormwater regulations, which resulted in large amounts of trash, sediments and pollutants flowing untreated into Clam Bayou and ultimately into Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay.
In 1995, the District and its partners acquired land and started construction projects to restore native habitats and treat stormwater. The project was funded in three phases during the past 17 years as a pay-as-you-go project. The District contributed more than $7 million during the three phases. That includes nearly $900,000 the District secured through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Local officials cut the ribbon on the Skyway Trail extension.
The project was managed by Brandt Henningsen and Janie Hagberg from the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program. With the completion of the Clam Bayou projects, trash, sediments and pollutants entering the estuary have been reduced. Nonnative plant species, such as Brazilian pepper, Australian pine trees and Guinea grass, have been removed and the public lands have been restored to a more natural state.
Pressman made a point to thank the volunteers who helped complete the project.
“Through the years, more than 500 volunteers helped plant native trees, shrubs and grasses,” he said.
Officials closed the ceremony by planting a tree to commemorate the day. They also cut the ribbon on the city of St. Petersburg’s new 1.6-mile Skyway Trail extension, which runs through Clam Bayou. Numerous cyclists attended the event to try the newly opened trail.