Plans for 'underwater garden' at Pier evaporate - FOX 13 News

Plans for 'underwater garden' at Pier evaporate

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

A key feature of the proposed next-generation St. Petersburg Pier has now been eliminated by scientific reality.  Local marine researchers say oysters cannot clarify more than an acre of Tampa Bay water so visitors can see what lies below. 

The search for a good Plan B has already started. 

"If the previous scheme didn't provide that or it wasn't feasible, we need to recognize that we need to step back," said Tom Leader, a member of the Lens design team. "We understand it's not the Florida Keys, it's not crystal clear water—it's going to probably be quite different from what we showed [in initial renderings]."

Thursday, Leader piloted a meeting of about a dozen marine researchers, many of whom helped steer the project away from the "underwater garden" concept.  Now, they are being asked to think of ways to add entertaining but educational elements to the Lens. 

Early ideas included showcasing the latest technologies used by marine researchers, such as remote-controlled underwater vehicles.  St. Petersburg is home to a wide variety of marine research entities, which might benefit from exposure to Pier visitors. 

"A lot of the details still have to be worked out, but absolutely the opportunity is off the scale for this to be a big impact on that entire [research] community and the city," said Dr. Larry Langebrake of SRI-St. Petersburg. 

Critics of the Lens quickly reacted to the death of the underwater garden.

"City council and the mayor were sold a plan that included a marine reef," Lorraine Margeson commented. "That's not going to happen, so the plan that they bought and are already spending money on now does not exist."

Leader said the motivation of the underwater garden remains:  "It's called the Lens really to put a focus on the bay," he told FOX 13 News. "That presentation wasn't so much about will sea grasses grow here, will this grow there, it's about an idea of enhancing and putting the spotlight on the estuary."

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