Dedication Celebrates Restoration
A real time machine converted land back to a beautiful mosaic of habitats…” That’s what Ann Paul, Tampa Bay Regional Coordinator of Audubon of Florida, calls the completion of a restoration project in southeastern Hillsborough County.
Paul and many other special guests joined the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Hillsborough County in a recent celebration of the completion of the Fred & Idah Schultz Preserve.
The preserve is part of a 204-acre ecosystem restoration project known as the “Kitchen.” The area was dubbed the Kitchen because fish, crabs, shellfish and birds were abundant throughout the variety of habitats. This area includes Port Redwing, Dug Creek and the Davis Tract. Restoration of the 60-acre Davis Tract was completed in 2002. Restoration is about to begin on the Dug Creek project.
The Schultz Preserve consists of 120 acres of estuarine and freshwater wetlands, artificial reefs, transitional communities and uplands in the northern portion of Port Redwing.
“It’s a beautiful preserve providing valuable habitat for coastal species and fisheries,” said David Moore, District executive director. “This type of habitat is so important to a productive Tampa Bay.”
Volunteers played a role in restoring the preserve. In fact, it is the site of the largest volunteer marsh planting for Tampa Bay. During the planting, coordinated by the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program, Tampa BAYWATCH and the General Electric Funds Group (ELFUN), more than 400 international volunteers installed 14,000 marsh plants in 35 minutes.
Other volunteer marsh plantings were coordinated through SWIM, Tampa BAYWATCH and Scheda Ecological Associates.
Janet Kovach, District Governing Board member and chair ex-officio of the Alafia River Basin Board, knows what it is like to be a volunteer in the trenches.
“I came out as a volunteer to plant marsh grass four years ago, and to see this site today is amazing,” said Kovach. “Your blood, sweat and tears were well worth it.”
Restoration of the Kitchen is a cooperative effort among the District’s Alafia River Basin Board, the SWIM program and the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. The District and Hillsborough County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program purchased the land in 1995. The preserve is maintained by Hillsborough County.
State Representative Sandra Murman acknowledged the importance of cooperation in completing this project. “I am so proud of this and what’s been done by all the partnerships and relationships. This is what government is all about.”
While this project could not be completed without the cooperation of several agencies and organizations, Moore recognized Dr. Brandt Henningsen, a senior environmental scientist with the SWIM program, for his tireless effort.
Henningsen, who had been directing traffic for the event earlier, downplayed his role with a joke. “I’m just the guy who parks the cars,” he said with a laugh.
The Schultz Preserve is named in honor of Fred and Idah Schultz, Tampa Bay’s first Audubon wardens.
“Obviously the Schultzes were very hard-working, very courageous folks who had a strong commitment to protecting important environmental resources in this area so that they could be enjoyed by future generations,” said Dr. Gerold Morrison, Environmental Resources Management Division Director, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County.
When the preserve is fully open, the public will be able to use the preserve for several recreational activities, including picnicking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, snorkeling and nature study. The preserve will also be used for educational purposes and have beach access.