TREASURE ISLAND — The redesign of Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis Center moved a step closer to being drawn into a blueprint, when city commissioners agreed on amenities to be included in a conceptual design plan.

At a March 1 work session, commissioners agreed to allocate $5,000 for a preliminary conceptual design that depicts a living shoreline with adjacent walking trail, pickleball, tennis and basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, two shade pavilions and kayak launch. The golf course, with its water ponds, will be redesigned in some fashion yet to be determined.

Parks & Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke said staff believes that all or partial elements of the conceptual design could be incorporated into the future master planning of the facility.

“Improvements to the ponds and inclusion of the living shoreline will require some holes on the golf course to be moved,” Hayduke told commissioners. “It should be noted that the living shoreline installation will require a slight modification to the third hole of the golf course and a walking trail may require further modifications, as well as safety precautions due to golfers.”

Commissioner John Doctor said the issue of what to do with the golf course has come up now because of the city’s need to replace the aging seawall with a living shoreline.

“We have to do something with our seawall and our living shoreline. Just putting in the living shoreline will basically require seven of the (golf course) holes to be shifted. This is a perfect time to be talking about it,” he added.

While the most significant ecological improvement proposed at Treasure Bay was the living shoreline to replace an aging seawall, many of those who attended the meeting were local golfers who wanted to ensure that the course remains untouched. Some feared adding amenities such as the living shoreline and walking trail may reduce the size of the golf course.

Hayduke noted the city’s largest waterfront recreation area is also home to tennis courts, a multiuse basketball and sand volleyball court, shuffleboard courts, playground, gathering areas, a clubhouse and a 9-hole, par 3 golf course. 

The property needs capital investment for maintenance and or replacement of items such as the clubhouse, maintenance building, tennis court lights and resurfacing, as well as replacement of the seawall and irrigation system, she said. 

Hayduke said that in 2020, partial funding was provided by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for the design of a living shoreline, construction of the first 500 feet of the shoreline and rehabilitation of the hazard ponds. Recently, TBEP increased its funding to the city to contribute a total of $202,099 towards the project.

Staff is also in the process of finalizing a $1.495 million grant agreement under the Resilient Florida Program. Hayduke said this grant would cover portions of additional design fees and construction for the remainder of the shoreline, a resiliency berm, and a small section of educational boardwalk.

The city hopes to be successful with its trail grant application to the Land and Water Conservation Fund; it is a 50/50 matching grant, Hayduke explained. The grant proposal includes a walking trail around the perimeter of the facility, small circuit exercise equipment and two small viewing pavilion structures in conjunction with the trail.

Commissioners unanimously voiced approval for the living shoreline and its related amenities.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, living shorelines incorporate a combination of coastal native vegetation for sediment stabilization and, if needed, breakwaters constructed of oyster shells, limestone rock or other structures conducive to the natural environment. Living shorelines serve to reduce erosion through the implementation of a natural salt marsh composed of deeply-rooted, fast-growing plants that provide shallow water habitat for marine species, attenuate and reduce wave energy, increase sediment acquisition, improve water quality, reduce pollution via wetland filtration, and moderate the effects of storms and floods.

The city is also looking at a major rehabilitation of the golf course ponds, which currently include water that is so laden with nutrients and sediment that they have killed birds that have stopped to drink.

Supporters of the golf course who attended the meeting questioned whether a walking trail could operate in conjunction with a golf course.

Hayduke told commissioners that city staff does have concerns between a walkway and a golf course. “It’s definitely going to be difficult to manage,” she said. “There is no way that I, at this time, can make a recommendation … There’s a lot of options, but I’m not a landscape architect.”

Commissioner Beth Wetzel said a walkway and the golf course could coexist. “I’ve seen it done several times,” she said. “Also, one of the things that many people who came to the meetings indicated they absolutely wanted was a trail; one of the goals is to make this piece of property available to many more people, so I think that’s something that very important.”

Doctor said he “would love to see the walking trail. The views from that piece of property for our residents, our tourists, everyone, are unbelievable. We get to see the beach, but we also get to see the Intracoastal and the bay.”

He said that’s why he is in favor of the city spending $5,000 for a conceptual design to see how it will all fit together.  

Commissioner Saleene Partridge said she agrees with Doctor that the walking trail was “a very hot topic for people.”

She added pickleball courts were another amenity that residents asked for.

Also being discussed for Treasure Bay is a potential kayak launch site. Assistant Public Works Director Stacey Boyles noted the living shoreline will create more seagrasses, fish habitats and underwater vegetative growth, and “once you have that habitat, if you want to go back in after the fact and permit something  like a kayak launch, it can be much  more tricky. If we want to (permit a kayak launch), now is really the time to try to make that decision.” 

Partridge said it’s probably a good idea to acquire a permit for a kayak launch now and make a decision on funding it later.

Future meetings will reveal the redesign of the golf course, along with its water hazards, as it fits with the planned living shoreline and walking trail. Commissioners will also approve hiring of a construction contractor and approve site plan funding.

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