Stevenson Creek Watershed encompasses 10 square miles in west central Pinellas County. The 6,300 acres, shaped like a giant saucer, stretch from Main Street in Dunedin to just south of Belleair Road in Largo. Flowing from south to north for four miles under neighborhoods, offices and golf courses, the waterway deposits pollutants into Clearwater Harbor.
The creek is one of the county's foulest bodies of water. High counts of bacteria, which indicate nitrogen and phosphorous, and metals, such as copper and lead, have been recorded in excess of state standards. The major source of contamination is storm water runoff, which contains fertilizer, oil, lawn chemicals and animal waste. The runoff either settles as silt in the bottom of the creek or flows into the harbor.
Over development and paving of the land surrounding the area and lack of environmental regulations have added to the steady decline of water-quality. Houses were built too close to the creek and were subjected to flooding. Septic tanks cracked allowing seepage. Old culverts deteriorated and became inefficient. Embankments eroded sending sediment downstream. The City Commission approved $600,000 to study Stevenson Creek in March 2000.
Glen Oaks Golf Course was on a 27-acre parcel bounded on the north and south by Court Street and Druid Road, on the east and west by Hillcrest Avenue and Betty Lane. Stevenson Creek meandered under the greens and through the ponds. Designed by Hans Schmeisser, the par 3 course was built in 1969 and purchased by the City of Clearwater in 1973.
For many years, the Chi Chi Rodriquez Foundation leased the facility and held summer camps for at-risk children. After 9/11, the annual fundraiser had a shortfall of $175,000, and camps were closed. In 2002, the city planned construction of a new clubhouse on the site at a cost of $600,000. When funds dwindled at Glen Oaks, clubhouse plans were cancelled and the foundation's lease was terminated.
The golf course was at the center of a 535-acre drainage basin, which was severely polluted by runoff and flooded badly during heavy rainstorms. City engineers and environmentalists recommended turning the golf course into a water retention area to alleviate the problems. Restoration of the Stevenson Creek Watershed, which could cost $35-mil and take 20 yrs. to complete, was given top priority.
The City Commission approved the recommendation and granted a work order for Parsons Engineering Science, Inc. to provide engineering design and permitting services for the Glen Oaks Water Management Project. The company is one of the world's largest engineering firms and specializes in environmental issues. Parsons was hired for $649,792.
The project was designed to filter about 16,500 pounds of silt and debris as well as harmful minerals from the creek each year. Plans included the 27-acre golf course plus the 4-acre David L. Martin soccer field across Court Street, which would become wetlands. The total cost was approximately $4.4-mil. The Stormwater portion was $2.6-mil, and the Parks & Recreation improvement was $1.8-mil.
A rendering of the project featured ponds, docks, bike trails, picnic areas, a playground and two soccer fields. When the plans were presented to the public in March 2003, residents voiced their disapproval. A stand of live oaks would be felled. The soccer fields would attract vagrants and increase the flow of traffic in the neighborhood. The bright lights on the fields were undesirable. Support was given to the 13-acre pond, a drainage tool to prevent flooding of residences nearby, and to the trail, picnic areas and playground. City Commissioners decided to save the trees, close the golf course and proceed with plans.
Glen Oaks Stormwater Management Project will convert most of the 31-acre parcel into a multi-purpose facility. Flood protection will be provided for 78 of 104 dwelling units. Ponds will treat water-quality for 1,243 acres that drain into Stevenson Creek at Glen Oaks. Wildlife habitats will be encouraged and nourished. An attractively landscaped recreational area will be provided.
Contractors were able to obtain plans and specs from the city in December 2004. Bids were accepted, and a decision was made last week. David Nelson Construction was low bidder for the contract. The company was in charge of construction for the Clearwater Beach Roundabout. According to the City Projects web site, construction should commence on March 28, 2005 and be completed June 30, 2006. Elliot Shoberg, of Clearwater's Public Works Administration, is project manager but was unavailable for comment.
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