SDAT tours Hillsborough River

11/11/08 Seán Kinane
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This week, a team of volunteers from around the country is assembling in Tampa to give advice on how the city can plan and design a more sustainable community. This afternoon, two members of that team joined a dozen community leaders and environmentalists in a kayak trip through parts of the Tampa along the lower Hillsborough River.

One of the participants is Mary Hooper, the mayor of Montpelier, Vermont. Hooper was just elected as a Vermont state Representative. She is part of the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) that is evaluating Tampa. They will present preliminary findings on Friday and a final report within two months.

The SDAT team came to Tampa because a local group received a $15,000 grant from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The grant had to be matched by the same amount raised by Urban Charrette, a nonprofit organization advocating for a more livable Tampa. Adam Fritz is the co-director of Urban Charrette and he said the SDAT team’s input will only be useful if the people of Tampa demand changes that lead to sustainability.

The group gathered at Rowlett Park, just below the Hillsborough River dam, where water from Sulphur Springs and the Tampa Bypass Canal poured into the lower river. Charmont Bonner and his daughter Tatiana fished on the bank.

On this warm and sunny afternoon, City Council member Linda Saul-Sena paddled a kayak from Rowlett Park, through parts of Sulphur Springs and Seminole Heights, to Lowry Park.

“It was magical on the river today. It was absolutely beautiful.”

In September, Saul-Sena led an effort by City Council to consider increasing the distance from the river that a homeowner can build. But she told WMNF her mind has changed about increasing setbacks after paddling the lower Hillsborough River.

“The key issue to keeping the quality of the river is keeping lots of foliage. … That’s even more important than whether buildings are back or close to the shoreline.”

SDAT Tampa will hold two public events this week, both of them at the Hillsborough County Bar Association at 1610 N. Tampa St. There will be a public workshop Wednesday from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., and the final presentation and reception will be Friday from 4:30 until 7 p.m.

SDAT Tampa

Previous WMNF coverage of setbacks

Montpelier, Vermont

Photo by: Seán Kinane/WMNF

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