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Plans for new park in Palmetto taking shape. It could help make water cleaner

The process of turning a brownfield site into a future city park in Palmetto is moving along. Among what’s planned are improvements that officials say could help clean up the environment.

Connor Park, 505 Fifth St. W., is sometimes referred to as the Edenfield property since the Edenfield family purchased the land from CSX Railroad in the 1980s. It was acquired by the city, then the CRA in the late 1990s. The park was named after Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame member Frank Connor.

Palmetto CRA director Jeff Burton said Monday the brownfield site is in the process of cleaning up the site is being completed.

Meanwhile, plans are being drawn up for what the property could be. The project was initially proposed as a passive park with stormwater treatment elements as water features, to treat water before it eventually flows into larger bodies of water.

Assessments from the area shows levels of petroleum and arsenic exceeded state criteria, said Joe Marsh, with Cardno, a company in the process of remediating Connor Park. The arsenic contamination could be natural or from historical freight activities there, while petroleum contamination could be from fuels and man-made sources like urban runoff, Marsh said.

Presenters for the proposed project noted the area has become a “model for environmental remediation and a demonstration project for maintaining environmental health.”

Concepts for Connor Park, or what some hope to call Connor Preserve, included a wetlands area, an osprey nest in the center, a pavilion a spillway from the wetlands to a segregate pond, along with water-filtering plants and a solar-powered fountain in the pond. Early designs also showed a boardwalk over the water.

The wetlands area will be used to naturally treat the water and remove much of the nitrogen.

Some of the conceptual ideas for Connor Park could include removing some trees, but commissioners Tambra Varnadore and Brian Williams asked those portions of the plan come back for more conversation.

Concepts of possible future direction for preservation projects in the Manatee River were also presented to city commissioners Monday.

An area that could be designated as Palmetto Bay includes a portion of the Manatee River between US 41 and the railroad tracks, along Riverside Drive and the edge of causeway, according to Leo Mills, of Leo Mills and Associates, which conducted a survey of the area.

Damon Moore, of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, pointed out the Manatee River, which used to be called the Oyster River, has several shallow banks and areas with naturally-existing oyster bars with some areas that have potential for large-scale oyster restoration work.

One calculation Moore showed to commissioners included potential for about 475 acres of oyster beds to be added to the area.

Other objectives could be to connect living shorelines that already exist in the area to bay and estuary habitats as well as provide high-density habitat reef in the deepest part of bay waters, said Todd Barber, chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation.

Palmetto city commissioners approved concepts for the Palmetto Bay project Monday night. It’s not a committal to the exact plans, but allows those working on the project to move forward with the ideas.

According to E Co Consultants Inc.’s Alec Hoffner, none of the ideas proposed for the Palmetto Bay area would impact any of the existing resources, such as seagrass.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant noted there appeared to be a lot of enthusiasm among the commissioners for the project.

Palmetto Bay.JPG
Provided photo

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