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Bayport Park's extensive makeover is going well, say those who are working on it.
By LOGAN NEILL, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
BAYPORT - For Clayton Harrison, a landscape contractor with Palm Harbor Palms, saving the wiry sabal palms that dot Bayport Park during the park's extensive makeover makes perfect sense.
"They're beautiful and they really make the park unique," Harrison said.
The Pinellas County palm tree expert spent the better part of the past week digging up 61 of the towering palms, some of which he guessed to be more than 100 years old.
Using a trenching tractor, Harrison cut a square around the trunk and then hoisted the tree, roots and all, with a crane. Later, he trimmed the top fronds off in a process he called "candle-sticking" before replanting the trees in new locations around the park.
With some luck, plus a generous daily watering, the transplanted trees should survive and thrive. Anyway, Harrison said, it is better than the county having to buy replacement palms.
"Even if you wanted to replace them, you couldn't," Harrison said. "Palms this size are almost impossible to find anymore."
The great palm shuffle was just the latest part of the $1.24-million makeover of the popular park. Though the temporary closing of Bayport Park may be causing some inconvenience to county visitors and residents, Hernando County Parks and Recreation project manager Al Toler thinks that people ultimately will applaud the changes.
"Once people see it, they're going to say it was worth the wait," Toler said Thursday as he watched a crew clearing the last debris from an area that will eventually serve as a parking area for up to 48 boat trailers. "We're taking a beautiful park and making it more functional for everyone."
From all indications, the improvement project is progressing well. Less than a month after the park closure, virtually all the clearing needed for expansion of new parking and recreational facilities is complete. A contracting company will likely begin work this week on installing pipes for a new sewer line connection.
The scenic 1.5-acre waterfront park on the Gulf of Mexico at the west end of State Road 50 abuts 26 acres of leased land owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud. The rebuilding plan will more than triple the present space for boat trailer parking and will increase car parking from 18 spaces to 35 spaces. In addition to a large recreation pavilion and two new concrete restroom facilities, a 140-foot boardwalk will be built along the waterfront.
According to Toler, county officials have been working with the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee and Swiftmud to address environmental and design issues.
One of the oldest waterfront parks in Hernando County, project engineers made it a top priority to guard against unnecessary destruction of the area's natural habitat.
Toler said that hooking up to the county's sewer system will eliminate the need for a septic system inside the park. Runoff from parking areas will be retained and filtered into concrete bunkers.
Although parking facilities will be increased, it will not come at the expense of the park's natural beauty, Toler said. In addition to preserving most of the native hardwood trees, the project also calls for landscaping that will highlight wetlands terrain.
According to Toler, the project is on track to make its original May 1 deadline.
"We've been lucky in that we haven't run into any problems," Toler said. "As a matter of fact, we're a little ahead of schedule."
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.
By the numbers
48 The number of parking spaces for boat trailers that will be available at the park.
61 The number of sabal palms that are being relocated to make room for parking spaces at the park.
100 The age, in years, of some of the palm trees being moved.
140 The length, in feet, of a new waterfront boardwalk.
$1.24-million The cost of the park's makeover.
[Last modified December 15, 2007, 20:12:00]