South Creek Restoration Project Completed at Oscar Scherer State Park

Sept. 16, 2014

South Creek

The tidal creek was restored along with two lakes and a wetlands area.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks has partnered with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to restore and enhance the historic wetlands found at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, south of Sarasota. A grant for $105,000 was secured from the South West Florida Water Management District to fund the construction, which started in March 2014. Volunteers will complete the restoration on Sept. 27 during National Public Lands Day activities.

South Creek is a tidal creek that flows through Oscar Scherer State Park. The wetlands surrounding South Creek have been impacted over the years by development and drainage activities. The project recreated the wetlands and enhanced already existing wetlands by removing exotic and nuisance species, regrading steep slopes within the onsite borrow pit and main lake system, and planting native wetland species.

“Under normal circumstances, bull dozers just push dirt around,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “However, this time, the bulldozers are tools used to create better places for swimming and fishing. The project built better habitat for a variety of animals like bullfrogs, great blue herons and egrets.”

In addition, a former isolated wetland was restored to provide critical wildlife habitat. This project enhances water quality by providing nutrient uptake prior to discharging into South Creek and eventually Sarasota Bay.

“Volunteers played a vital part in this project,” said Tony Clements, park manager at Oscar Scherer State Park. “We tied the plantings at Lake Osprey into our Earth Day event. Hundreds of people helped plant more than 9,000 plants in four hours in the shallow waters and bank of the lake. Phase II of the volunteer efforts will take place Sept. 27 at the annual National Public Lands Day event. Volunteers will open up access for fishing and shady spots for visitors to enjoy.”

This restoration project consisted of three separate areas. The first area, Lake Osprey, is a freshwater man-made borrow pit dug in the 1960s. Since 1965, swimming has been allowed on the western side and fishing has been allowed on the eastern bank. This project removed the steep banks along the eastern shore by digging the shoreline back and pushing some of the material back into the lake. All the nuisance cattails were removed from the lake. More natural littoral shelves were created along the eastern bank with plantings of native plant species, which will better serve native animal and plant species.

Big Lake is a second freshwater man-made borrow pit dug in the 1960s. This lake is located along the five-mile yellow trail. Anglers enjoy this lake that has an observation deck on the north corner. This project removed the steep banks along the north and south shores by digging back the shoreline and filling in some of the lake to create a more natural shoreline. Littoral shelves were created with plantings of native plant species. Nuisance cattails were removed from the sections of the restored lake.

Wetland 3A was altered in the early 1960s. The project restored the natural slope and flow to the wetland, including the planting of more wetland endemic plant species.

Within days of project completion, more than 10 different species of birds never seen at Big Lake were found utilizing this newly restored habitat. For the first time, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, white egrets, anhinga, little blue herons and wood storks were seen foraging in the shallows of the lakes.

The Friends of Oscar Scherer Park, Inc. have set aside $90,000 to fund an accessible fishing dock, dip netting programs and improved access to Lake Osprey.

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