tampabay.com

Work to root out nuisances

By JON WILSON
Published March 28, 2007


Ray Wunderlich III flung his arm wide, the gesture taking in most of a bayside park.

"It was a mass of vines and shrubs and exotic palm trees. You couldn't see through it all," Wunderlich said.

Not long ago, Wunderlich, Bill Bilodeau and others in the Florida Native Plant Society started clearing out the mess in Little Bayou Park at Fourth Street S between 54th and 55th avenues.

People clipped, pulled at ropes of vines, picked up hillocks of trash, stacked debris and hauled.

A longtime runner, Wunderlich routed some of his workouts through the park, which comprises about 15 acres.

"I'd come out here in the middle of a run and start stacking stuff," he said.

A more formally organized clean-up is Saturday at the park, starting at 9 a.m.

Among the jobs: collecting air potato tubers, trimming cabbage palms, piling and hauling debris into piles, and digging up small shrubs.

Speaking of air potatoes, which look something like light brown eggs: Prizes will be offered for picking up the tubers.

Categories include the largest and smallest potato, first to fill up a bucket, "weirdest looking" potato and the first person under 12 years old to pick up 50.

Recent years have seen partial wetlands restoration in the park, which is city-owned. Sea grasses replaced a seawall, and exotics such as Brazilian peppers and Australian pines were taken out.

But the upland part of the park had been neglected over the years, Wunderlich said.

He and his wife found a damaging exotic called shoe-button ardesia. City crews cut down most of it about two years ago. Since then, the city, the native plant society, the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association and Progress Energy agreed to help work on restoration.

The goal is to restore the park as a habitat, and as a passive recreation area with a walking trail. Florida native plants will be used to help create a hardwood hammock, Wunderlich said.

Fast Facts:

You can help

For information about the clean-up, call 727 577-4344 or e-mail rayrunner@yahoo.com.