According to the latest update from county officials, Red Bug Slough will soon look a lot more like a slice of untouched Florida wetland and a lot less like a construction site.
Work has restarted on the $464,552 project to restore native vegetation to the park’s wetland environment and redirect the flow of stormwater runoff through the site. Heavy rainfall stalled the project in September.
According Southwest Florida Water Management District data, Sarasota County saw about 2 1/2 times more rain in 2013 than the year before.
Sarasota County Project Manager Paul Semenec said the project’s contractor, Fort Myers-based Ecosystems Technologies Inc., shut down work after September’s heavy rains. Work recommenced Nov. 12, Semenec said, and is projected to be finished according to the project’s original timeline — completed Dec. 17, with final cleanup done by Jan. 16.
“The project was delayed by rain, but should be completed on time and on budget,” Semenec said.
The intent of the project is to improve the water quality of the slough and nearby Roberts Bay through the removal of exotic vegetation and improvements to the flow of stormwater through the area, hopefully preventing the development of bacterial outbreaks.
The project’s long delay and the abrupt pause in construction spurred some residents who use the area recreationally to take their concerns to the County Commission.
“What excuse does the contractor have for not removing obvious detritus from the site, which is at best unsightly and environmentally damaging, and at worst downright dangerous and an [un]attractive nuisance,” Bruce Morrison, a resident of nearby Crooked Creek, wrote to the County Commission in November. “My concern is a gross disrespect for residents of this area, as well as near total displacement of all the normal animal residents; the birds are just not here anymore.”
Semenec said that one of the county’s requirements when accepting bids was for the contactor to restore the preserve to its original condition once work is complete, limiting the long-term impact to the park’s wildlife.
Part of the wetland project involves removing foreign vegetation species and replacing them with more than 23,000 native plants. Stormwater that eventually ends up in Roberts Bay will be re-routed through the wetlands, improving the ease of flow and reducing the time it sits stagnant, breeding bacteria and potentially collecting other contaminants.
The 72-acre preserve was purchased in 2000 and 2001 through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, with funding assistance provided by Florida Communities Trust.
The dog-friendly park features several miles of unpaved hiking and biking trails, as well as a butterfly garden, picnic area and playground.
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