A 10-year management plan for Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park was given a $30,320 tuneup last week and a chance for less controversy after an earlier version was labeled as too soft on exotic plants.
» DEP: Treat all invasive plants in the park within two years.
According to the plan, the state Department of Environmental Protection will essentially cut an eight-year timetable for treating nonnative plants to two years. Spending against invasives such as Brazilian pepper, Australian pine, carrotwood and cogongrass will double to $60,000, up from $29,680 in the initial plan.
The DEP also hopes to re-enlist Hillsborough County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program. ELAPP and a band of volunteers were pivotal in previous efforts at the park before spending and staff cuts, according to the 70-page proposal by the DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks.
In November, the DEP's initial plan was criticized by environmental groups as weak against exotic plants. The DEP estimates invasives exist in varying amounts on 138 acres. The full infestation amounts to 16 acres overall, the DEP said, and the initial plan was to treat two acres a year.
The revised plan, published Dec. 17, proposes to "treat all invasive exotic plant species in the park within two years.” According to the plan, “Invasive exotic trees and shrubs … can cause thickets or monocultures that do not allow tortoise food plants to grow. Dense monocultures of cogongrass are also a problem for gopher tortoises.”
The park, surrounded by Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, is a 615-acre strip of undeveloped coastline in south Hillsborough County considered among the wildest in Florida. The habitat, including 17 acres of coastal berm, 43 acres of salt marsh and 504 acres of mangrove swamp, supports a stunning range of animals and plants, including more than a dozen state or federal imperiled species.
The overall pricetag is $221,449. The cost to control invasives represents roughly 40 percent of $153,496 set aside for resource management.
• Complete a comprehensive floral and faunal survey and update the park's plant and animal list ($8,416)
• Monitor and evaluate erosion and shoreline retreat at Goat Island; to determine if additional control measures are needed ($18,000)
• Update imperiled species occurrence inventory lists for plants and animals ($30,400)
• Monitor gopher tortoise population on Goat Island using FWC protocols ($5,000)
• Maintain the park's current recreational capacity of 176 users a day ($22,741).
On Jan.7 the DEP’s advisory group for Cockroach Bay is scheduled to meet from 9 a.m. to noon at the library in Ruskin. The meeting is open to the public but no comment is scheduled. A two-week written comment period will also begin Jan. 7.
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On Jan. 6, updates on Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site and Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park will be offered in a public workshop at Palmetto City Hall, 516 8th Avenue West, at 7 p.m.