TIERRA VERDE (FOX 13) –
Nearly 10 years ago to the day, “Dr. Beach” named Fort De Soto Park’s North Beach the best beach in America. Today, Dr. Steve Leatherman, a professor of environmental studies at Florida International University, told FOX 13 News “…it might not even make the list…Fort De Soto could be on that list but they’re going the wrong way to be on that top 10 beaches list.”
Leatherman is among those shocked by the unannounced removal of exotic plant species at Fort De Soto Park, including Australian pines.
“Don’t cut down those trees” Leatherman said in a Skype interview. “We need more trees, we need more vegetation. To make that park barren is going to be the wrong thing to do. People are not going to like it.”
County officials provided FOX 13 News with two photographs explaining their preference for eradication. They claim, near the water’s edge, the roots of Australian pine trees actually increase the rate of sand erosion, and eventually the trees topple over. Further from the water, they provide ample shade for picnic areas, but become the source of seeds for more trees on the actual beach.
Pinellas County Parks Director Paul Cozzi told FOX 13 News the project is also removing several other plant species, and received County Commission approval. However Cozzi said in hindsight, “Did anybody get up and say Ft. De Soto is going to look radically different? No.”
Now the tree removal, and particularly the lack of notice, is stirring outrage in the tourism industry, which considers Fort De Soto Park a major attraction.
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