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Drought's effects far-reaching

Cypress trees are showing their roots, wildlife habitats are shrinking, and even landscape businesses are feeling the pinch.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2000


KEYSTONE -- The drought has taken a toll on more than just lawns and flower beds in this part of the county. It's also leaving lakes areas, normally wet and swampy, in danger of going high and dry.

"The lakes are down 10 feet," said Crawley Road resident Jan Fowler. "Most people don't have an opportunity to see. But we're here, close to nature."

And what residents in northwest Hillsborough are seeing are lake levels dropping so low that cypress trees are beginning to show their root systems, and wildlife are coping with a diminishing habitat.

"We have cypress trees in deep distress," Fowler said. "We've got an otter in the lake, alligators, birds, they're all suffering."

Meteorologists predict rain any day now, but that's small consolation to homeowners watching their lawns turn brown and their lakes dry up. It's also causing financial problems for people in the so-called green industry.

"We aren't losing trees but it's a struggle not to," said Hollie Dobbins. She and her husband Greg Dobbins own Dobbins Tree Farm on Crawley Road off Tarpon Springs Road. "We've had to eliminate some trees and consolidate others."

Greg Dobbins said, "It's to the point it's difficult to stay in the landscape business with no water and water restrictions. A lot of our contracts have been canceled, or put on hold."

Greg Dobbins said the drought is also affecting suppliers of gardening items such as mulch and fertilizers.

"There's suffering everywhere, corn, potatoes, or trees," he said.

-- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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