Over the last few months, many of you who have driven by Bobby Jones Park have noticed the rapid development of the new golf course as the turf grows in on the greens and fairways and the sand traps take shape. What you can’t see from the road at this point is the creation of the park’s new landmark 20-acre wetlands shown above that has been planted with over 44,000 native aquatic plants. The wetlands will be a major focal point at the park as its aquatic plants grow and filter stormwater runoff and provide new habitat for birds and wildlife.
The wetland will help improve the water quality in impaired Phillippi Creek by filtering the excess nutrients in stormwater runoff from 6,000 upland acres. This will be achieved by redirecting the existing drainage channels Main B and Main BB to run through the wetlands. This process will slow down the flow of water allowing the plants to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus before it can run into Phillippi Creek. It is estimated that the wetlands will annually remove over 900 pounds of nitrogen and over 330 ponds of phosphorus from the park’s stormwater runoff.
The wetlands will also provide more recreational activity for park visitors with a rookery island for birds and several overlooks for people to relax and observe nature. According to the Sarasota City staff, the wetlands is already home to a variety of new birds and wildlife even before the plants reach maturity in the next year or so. Visitors to the park will also learn how littoral plants work to improve the environment through educational signage created by Kimley Horn.
Funding for the planting of the wetlands project at Bobby Jones Park was made possible through a Barancik Foundation grant to the Healthy Pond Collaborative Sarasota, a partnership with START, Solutions To Avoid Red Tide, the Sarasota County NEST Program, the Suncoast Waterkeeper, the University of Florida IFAS Sarasota Extension and the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida. The partnership was additionally funded through the initiative of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and a matching grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.