MANATEE -- Every 10 years the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation Parks updates state park management plans.
How two of those parks, in Palmetto and in Ellenton, will be managed for the next decade is up for public discussion at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Palmetto City Hall chambers.
The management plan presentation involves updates for the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site on Bayshore Drive in Palmetto and the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Mansion in Ellenton off U.S. 301 East.
Madira Bickel Mound is the first ancient Native American burial mound designated a state archaeological site following the donation of the property in 1948. Excavations of the burial mound within the 9.18-acre park have revealed three periods of Native American cultures with the earliest dating back 2,000 years.
According to the proposed management plan, efforts will continue to ensure native vegetation is protected. The park has lost almost a third of its native sabal palms due to the 2008 arrival of
the Texas phoenix palm decline, a bacterial disease exerting significant impact in Manatee County. Red bays in the park have also suffered a high mortality rate from laurel wilt disease, but the state reports the overall vegetative health of the park is in "good condition."
The state recommends more frequent park inspections because of the many migratory birds passing through and dropping undesirable seeds.
The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Mansion was home to Maj. Robert Gamble and headquarters of an extensive sugar plantation -- now the only surviving plantation in South Florida. The memorial is named after Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, who is believed to have taken refuge at the Gamble Plantation after the fall of the Confederacy.
The property in Ellenton on U.S. 301 East was donated to the state in 1925 by the Daughters of the Confederacy. According to Kevin Kiser, park manager, the management plan for the Gamble Mansion is similar to the previous 10-year plan with continued emphasis on invasive plant and animal control.
The former sugar mill grounds has been a hotbed for invasive species growth, Kiser said.
"A lot of invasive vegetation and feral hogs are getting into the area," Kiser said. "There is a proposal to build a new boundary fence to help keep the hogs out."
The proposed plan indicates hog trapping will continue. Kiser said visitation to the Gamble Mansion was up this year and general park operations are good.
"We are doing what needs to be done slowly," he said. "There are no real surprises in the management plan because, like everyone else, the state is hurting for funds. We do have a lot of buildings that could use some repairs but we are just waiting our turn."
According to the proposed plan, the state acknowledges many repairs are needed but lists the mansion, the sugar mill ruins and other parts of the park in good condition.
The one exception is the historic Patten House, which the state knows has issues after an August study showed extensive moisture and termite damage. The plan calls for a "complete structural investigation and construction document plan. ... The most pressing stabilization work (must be) implemented to protect the house from potential structural failure."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.