Spring’s rebirth is model for partnership

Spring’s rebirth is model for partnership

You’ve likely admired the handiwork of Tom Ries if you’ve visited Tampa’s popular Ulele restaurant on the Hillsborough River. Ries oversaw the transformation of the adjacent Ulele Spring from an overgrown ditch to a small but important urban park that showcases the bubbling spring-water.

“We wanted to recreate a natural spring run to the river, and more importantly, bring fish and manatees back,” said Ries, founder of the non-profit Ecosphere Restoration Institute and executive vice president of Scheda Ecological Services. Wading birds stalk small fish in the spring pools and manatees visit year-round. “We expected them in winter, but we’re finding more manatees in summer when the river is hotter and the spring is cool.”

Ries founded Ecosphere in 2003 to expand public-private restoration opportunities. Ecosphere connects public agencies and private landowners willing to waive future development rights, and has secured grants of more than $5 million to aid in this mission.

Ries has received numerous awards for his long involvement in some of the region’s most successful and ambitious projects. He is happiest tromping through the wetlands he has nurtured, watching them mature and flourish, and pondering new “fields of dreams” for the future.

Did you know? Ulele Spring is named for a Tocobaga Indian princess who reportedly lived on the shores of Tampa Bay in the 1500s.

Photo by: Nanette O’Hara

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