In natural Florida, building a bridge to a better habitat

It may just look like grass, but adding native species back into the Newman Branch Creek habitat goes a long way toward restoring the environment to its natural, pre-invasive-species form.

It may not seem unique at first, but native species like smooth cordgrass, added back into the Newman Branch Creek habitat, go a long way toward restoring the environment to its natural, pre-invasive-species form.

Where were the volunteers?

No sign of them from quiet Dickman Road in Apollo Beach. Did they vanish into the dense Florida wilderness?

Pushing through the native scrub, clues were fleeting – signs of footprints, something resembling a trail.

Wait.

Amid the breeze in the branches and the calls of birds, the sound of conversation arose. Gradually it grew … until suddenly, there they were: Tampa Electric team members and their camaraderie as they planted shrubs and groundcover plants to enhance upland habitat around Newman Branch Creek. It was the latest in a series of efforts to grow a showcase of environmental stewardship for the community as part of a unique public-private partnership on Tampa Electric-owned land.

TECO volunteers care.

TECO volunteers care.

“Planting this time was a real challenge, since it hadn’t rained in a while – the hard ground fought our shovels the whole time,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs with Environmental, Health & Safety. “But this group did outstanding work, as always, to help restore the land to its natural character.”

Volunteers used a temporary bridge installed by Tampa Bay Marine to access the planting site. With them was Tom Ries with the nonprofit Ecosphere Restoration Institute, a partner in the Newman Branch Creek restoration effort. And when they finished, after a few hours of hard work, the groundwork had been laid – literally – for a healthier habitat, where marsh elder, beach sunflower and smooth cordgrass could now grow where invasive Brazilian pepper once choked the ecosystem.

This temporary bridge, installed by Tampa Bay Marine, enables volunteers to access the deeper reaches of the Newman Branch Creek planting site.

This temporary bridge, installed by Tampa Bay Marine, enables volunteers to access the deeper reaches of the Newman Branch Creek planting site.

Just to the west, in a more visible location, the Florida Conservation and Technology Center is another example of what the commitment to environmental stewardship is bringing to an area that a few short decades ago bore the scars of industry. Soon, the entire area south of Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center will be a treasure of natural Florida – with environmental education and fun mixed in.

“It’s great how each section of Newman Branch Creek is part of something larger, and how each time we come back to do more planting, we get to see its natural progress – it keeps growing,” Kroh said. “For future generations, and for the community today, we’re talking steps now to ensure that a healthy environment is the gift that keeps giving.”

Thanks to the Tampa Electric volunteers who made the Newman Branch Creek planting a success on Dec. 1:

Nate Alcoz
Kristy Apostol
Robert Barthelette
Byron Burrows
Robyn Carlson
Christopher Cooper
Melissa Douglas
Robin Faxas
Cheryl Johnson
Amanda Keys
Joe Kickliter
Stan Kroh
Rebecka Malloy
Yasmin McComber
Shawna McDonald
Randy Melton
Paul Miller
Laurie Pence
Peggy Penner
Maria Rey
Natalie Tafuni
Jamie Woodlee

Thanks, volunteers!

Thanks, volunteers!

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One Response to In natural Florida, building a bridge to a better habitat

  1. npaksoy says:

    Thank you for volunteering and making the area better.

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