Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Feb. 23, 2006)
Seminole Lake gets a new lease on life
 
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Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
An egret flies over Lake Seminole.
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Lake Seminole is the second largest lake in Pinellas County. Seminole Lake Park, immediately adjacent to Seminole Lake, offers a wide range of recreation as well as natural features including: 13 picnic shelters, grills, picnic tables, playground, water fountains, rest-rooms, walking and nature trails, butterfly garden and a boat ramp with spaces for vehicles and trailers.

According to Pinellas County Parks and Recreation, Seminole Park is visited by more than 1 million visitors each year. Seminole Lake is surrounded by homes, roads, shops and even a tiny airport.

While 1 million Seminole residents and visitors intend to continue having their picnics, take their boats out on the lake, ski or ride personal watercraft, canoe or kayak the backwaters, walk the dog, play baseball, take the kids to the playground, build roads around the shores and live in apartments with a view, the public needs to realize that these amenities do come at a cost and an impact upon the lake’s well being.

To provide these amenities on and near the lake, the natural factors such as: precipitation, evaporation, runoff, groundwater, aquatic growth and tides have been impeded, disturbed and permanently altered affecting the water fluctuation levels. As a result, an accumulation of sediment has built up. Unnatural, invasive plants have dispersed native plants while the natural ebb and flow of the lake has been changed generating an enormous toll and impact upon the natural world of the Seminole Lake region.

And even though the natural and human-induced changes have been taking place since the lake was formed, humans have made major changes in recent years. Now we are in the position of needing to address these consequences immediately.

The city of Seminole, Florida Parks and Recreation Department and Fish and Wildlife Commission have come together for a long-term restoration plan for Lake Seminole. This plan includes the removal of invasive plants, the lowering of the lake to remove the muck from the sides and bottom of the lake, improve the natural flow of water and lake level fluctuation while promoting habitat restoration.

Consequently Seminole Lake is being lowered to a level of 2.5 feet during the months of February and March. FWC anticipates no negative ecological impact. Although 2,000 feet of shoreline will be affected, Seminole Park’s supervisor, Fred Stagger, said that the studies have indicated that for the brief restoration period wildlife will move to the adjacent bodies of water and nearby preserves.

Brazilian pepper, castor bean and cattails are on the plant removal list. A special team with hydraulic machinery will be brought in to handle the Brazilian pepper, which has a natural history of prolifically dropping berries in order to propagate itself again in the future. Every precaution has been taken, including lining the beds of the trucks so berries can’t escape.

The Pinellas County department of environmental management watershed resources program director, Kelli Levy, surveyed the district on Friday, Feb. 17. Levy expressed that she wants to reassure the public of the zero negative environmental impact this project will make upon the area. In fact, the long term goal of the project is the “mimicking” of the natural fluctuation of lake levels as nature intended.

On her tour of the area she noted a couple of locations of non-native, Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Hydrilla verticillata, two extremely invasive water plants. Removal of these plants will be necessary. Levy encourages residents to report sightings of these and other invasive plants to the PCDEM and to please participate in the upcoming events associated with the Seminole Lake Restoration Project Clean-up: Feb. 25 and March 4.

For more information about these events and the restoration project call 464-4425. This is a great opportunity to get involved. Lend a hand in bringing Seminole Lake back to nature.

Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.

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