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Date of Issue: June 17, 2009

Crew returning to remove non-native plants

For Holmes Beach’s Grassy Point nature preserve, recent rain “was a godsend,” said public works superintendent Joe Duennes.

Still, a handful of plants placed last July have died and will need to be replaced.

Meanwhile, other plants need to come out of the preserve, a 32-acre park protected through a partnership between the city of Holmes Beach, the state of Florida and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. The area, consisting of uplands, wetlands and submerged land, is bordered on the west by East Bay Drive, the east by Anna Maria Sound, the north by Sunbow Bay condominiums and the south by 31st Street.

Under the supervision of the SBEP, exotic, invasive species that were crowding out native plants were removed about a year ago.

“We’re seeing some sprouts,” Duennes said of returning exotics. “Some are well-rooted.”

He said a city public works crew will begin removing the exotic plants, mostly Brazilian peppers and some Australian pines, this week.

He also said SBEP possibly will provide some money to compensate the city for the work, which could cost a couple thousand dollars.

“We could support exotic plant management/removal on the site,” said SBEP senior scientist Jay Leverone, adding, “We figure that would need to be done once a year.”

SBEP, which has taken the lead on the project, also will be searching for money for other long-planned improvements to Grassy Point, which largely remains in development and unopened to the public.

Paddlers can enter from the waterfront and travel through portions of Grassy Point in kayaks and canoes — a sign prohibits propeller-driven watercraft — but a gate at the entrance is intended to keep out people on foot.

“SBEP is looking for some other money to do bigger things,” Duennes said, adding that the city’s plan for Grassy Point includes a boardwalk over some wetlands and an observation tower.

“That’s a rather expensive project,” Duennes said.

“We need to look at moving forward with the walks, boardwalks and other path improvements,” Leverone said. “I’d like to think that, if we have restoration monies available, that we could start some of this work in 2009. I’ll have to look at the numbers and review the permits and plans before being able to make a decision.”

The Holmes Beach City Commission agreed to pursue the acquisition of the land for Grassy Point in 1997 to guard against development and “restore a coastal hammock community and thereby provide a rare habitat form for the education and enjoyment of future generations,” according to city records.

The Florida Communities Trust approved a grant to acquire the Grassy Point acres provided that the city removed non-native plants within 10 years.

Soon after the purchase of the land, the city invested about $7,500 for a survey, signs and limited access.

In 2005, the city and SBEP entered an agreement to develop a restoration plan that led to the removal of exotic plants this spring, to be followed by the plantings and creation of a nature trail this summer.

Of the $40,000 the city committed to the first phase of Grassy Point, a resident donated $25,000.