Sweetwater Wetlands Park Formally Opens in GainesvilleJune 15th, 2015 by gainesvillechamber
Beautiful 264-Acre Park the Result of Smart Engineering and Conservation
A ribbon cutting ceremony today formally introduced Gainesville’s newest recreational showplace – Sweetwater Wetlands Park. State and local dignitaries gathered at the northern tip of Paynes Prairie Preserve to revel in the breath-taking vistas offered throughout the new park and pay tribute to the innovative wetlands filtration solution that enhances the water quality flowing into prairie’s sensitive basin.
During the event, Mayor Ed Braddy praised the City of Gainesville Public Works Department and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) for their work on the ambitious project that will improve water quality in the Alachua Sink and restore more than 1,300 acres of wetlands in Paynes Prairie.
“Sweetwater Wetlands Park is another example of Gainesville’s commitment to sustainability, and proof of the amazing outcomes that can result when you combine smart engineering with environmental conservation,” Mayor Braddy told a group of more than 100 on hand for the ribbon cutting. “This innovative approach has not only created a fabulous new park to share with our residents and visitors, but we’ve also creatively addressed an important infrastructure issue in a fashion that also saves tax payer dollars.”
Construction on the park began in 2012 and included improvements to GRU’s Main Street Water Reclamation Facility and the construction of a 125-acre water enhancement wetland. These upgrades will re-establish the natural sheetflow of low-nutrient water from Sweetwater Branch onto Paynes Prairie, as well as protect for the Floridan Aquifer, provide an outstanding habitat for wildlife, and opportunities for public recreation and wildlife study.
“Our teams took an in-depth look at the severe issues Paynes Prairie has experienced in the past with excess nitrogen and were determined to find a long-term solution that was not only practical but that would preserve and improve this area that’s valued by so many in our community and around the state,” said Alice Rankeillor, project manager for GRU. “And we’re pretty pleased with the results.”
The new process uses the wetland’s naturally sustainable filtration system to improve water quality, and because it works with the natural ecosystem to help restore and protect our water resources, it requires minimal upkeep. The construction of the enhanced wetlands also offers energy savings by reducing the treatment process required to meet water quality standards.
“As a Gainesville-based company, it’s been a real privilege for us to help to restore and enhance the environmental health and wildlife in natural fresh water systems,” said Bob Edmunds, founder of Jones Edmunds, the engineering firm who worked to design the project. “It is a testimony to the vision of our community to have just such a project here in our hometown.”
Other project partners included the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Department of Transportation and Alachua County.
For more information on the park, visit www.sweetwaterwetlands.org.