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.
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.
“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.
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: