Thursday, April 16, 2009

Martha Wellman Park Trail, Tallahassee, Florida

If you've been driving on West Tennessee Street (US 90) just west of Capital Circle NW in recent years, you may have noticed a massive stormwater retention pond being constructed south of the highway. That pond-- a joint project of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Conservation, the Florida Department of Transportation and Blueprint 2000--will soon be the setting for another Tallahassee-area paved trail, the Martha Wellman Park Trail. This joins the Lake Henrietta Trail and the Lake Elberta Trail as local trails built around stormwater retention ponds.

The pond is part of the Blueprint 2000 project to improve Capital Circle NW from the Interstate 10 interchange south to West Tennessee Street (US 90). All the new pavement--from widening the road, adding sidewalks and bike lanes, and improving intersections--creates more stormwater run-off, and that water has to go somewhere, hence the creation of "Regional Pond #1." However, instead of digging a deep hole and fencing it off, "the facility was designed as a multi-use pond." West Tallahassee gets a park and trail.

The trail is already in place. It is ten-feet wide, paved with asphalt, and makes a 3870-foot circuit of the pond. The east side of the trail is bordered by the Oakside Park mobile-home village, and the south side by homes on Shuler Road, but much of the trail is bounded by woods. Eight spots on the outside of the trail have been prepared for the mounting of benches. A parking lot is already in place along US 90, but is currently occupied by construction vehicles. Landscaping continues, but sod and trees have already been planted. Cypress trees have been set along the water; right now the trees look like tomato stakes but one day they will line the pond like the columns of a cathedral. In that same happy future, the magnolia and live oak saplings planted on the outside of the trail will be providing shade.

The trail already has a few users. As for the pond, local birds are not waiting for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. In three visits I've spotted doves, red-winged blackbirds, cormorants, great blue herons, american egrets, wood storks, and other birds on and around the water.

You can find the trail across the highway from the Capital Center, 5050 West Tennessee Street, home to offices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Revenue--aka "Taxland." The park and trail should be immediately useful to workers at the Capital Center, being a pleasant site for a lunchtime stroll or for a workout before or after the business day.

Blueprint 2000 has tentatively scheduled the dedication of the park for 9:30 am on 1 June 2009 and will be named Martha Wellman Park. Martha Wellman served on the Economic and Environmental Consensus Committee and was a Community Representative on the Capital Circle Southwest Project.

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