An EcoPARK Begins At Jacaranda West

Last December 28th marked the first day in an exciting journey to create an EcoPARK in the Jacaranda West community in Venice. The project is being overseen by the Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF) of which START is a founding partner. The host community, Jacaranda West Homeowners Association, is playing a major hands-on role in arranging the delivery of cardboard, woodchips and a steady stream of donations. The EcoPark will be a specially designed Microforest that will intercept stormwater absorbing excess nutrients before they can enter our waterways and feed harmful algal blooms like red tide.

SURF has planted seven other Microforests along the Suncoast, but the EcoPARK is the most ambitious project to date because it involves three different Microforests, a prairie and a biologically diverse bankside/littoral planting along the park’s southern boundary. The EcoPARK abuts Jacaranda Boulevard about a third of a mile south of Center Street and will be accessible by sidewalk. SURF will install a small parking area for bicycles and golf carts and will provide a network of trails and overlooks for the public to enjoy the various habitats.

What you see in the picture above is SURF volunteers creating the beginning of a Bald Cypress swamp, one of the most important habitats in protecting our shoreline from erosion and our coastal waters from nutrients in stormwater runoff. The volunteers are installing one hundred one-gallon Bald Cypress trees that were generously donated by Cherrylake Growers of Grove City, Florida. In fact, Cherrylake was so pleased with the photographs of the initial planting that they donated another 300 Bald Cypress trees for the project. The four hundred Bald Cypress trees along with some red maple, wax myrtle and sweet bay will convert this muddy basin into a thriving and diverse wetlands that will transpire most of the water that enters it filtering out excess nutrients before they can flow downstream.

In addition to installing the trees, the volunteers also used cardboard and woodchips to sheet-mulch about a tenth of an acre of the park’s footprint to set the stage for the installation of a living wall and an especially dense Microforest called the Druid’s Den that will be planted in March. Other contributing donors to this landmark project are The Jacaranda West Homeowners Association, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Sarasota Bay Rotary Club.

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