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What's in a Plan? Dump Site Transformed Into Dynamic Wildlife Habitat

Wildlife Habitat - Gannett Fleming
Author: Anthony Hoffman, PE, Project Manager
At the end of Raleigh Street, in rural southern Tampa, a 6-acre property became an illegal dumping ground for battery casings, furnace slag, and other waste. During a 14-year-period, the Raleigh Street Dump Site had grown into a contaminated salt marsh wetland, drawing negative attention from the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In partnership with property owner CSX Transportation, its subsidiary Atlantic Land & Improvement, the EPA, and the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), Gannett Fleming transformed the site into an environmental showpiece. The work earned prestigious accolades, including the EPA Region 4’s “Excellence in Site Re-Use” Award and the WHC’s “Rookie of the Year” Award for new projects.

This past July, the WHC renewed the site’s certification as a Wildlife at Work property, recognizing it for best practices in wildlife habitat management. The recertification provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on key elements that created a successful ecological restoration.

Remedial Design Plan—CSXT and WHC had the vision to improve and restore the site’s ecological processes, functions, and attributes. Our job was to develop and implement a remedial design plan that would govern our work. We removed more than 33,000 tons of soil, debris, and sediment, recycled over 40 tons of used tires, and refilled impacted areas with clean soil. Particularly important, we placed institutional controls on the site to limit the future use of soil and groundwater. 

Wetland Restoration—The wetland is the anchor of the former dump site. We increased the wetland from one to 2.6 acres and implemented a myriad of other improvements, including a wildflower and native grass meadow along with bird nesting and bat box boxes that provide safe habitats for the Florida species. We also planted two monarch butterfly gardens, created habitat brush piles, and managed non-native, invasive exotic plants.

Long-term Maintenance Plan—The site is one of the last undeveloped areas of the Tampa Bay area. Preserving it creates an ecological asset for the Hillsborough County community. Monthly, we monitor it in accordance with the Remedial Design Plan, re-planting and removing invasive species as necessary. Already this year, we’ve replanted White Mangroves, Buttonwoods, Dune Sunflowers, and various types of cordgrass, daisies, and vines. 

The project demonstrates a practical way to protect and enhance a valued habitat now and for years to come. The approach can be replicated on other ecological restoration efforts that renew and restore damaged habitats and make our world a healthier, more sustainable place.

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