Bill Gregory Park Stormwater Project
Bayou Chico, located along the western border of America’s first settlement, Pensacola, Florida, is an impaired 10.36 square-mile drainage basin in the Northwestern Panhandle which spills into historic Pensacola Bay. The watershed is a part of the Pensacola Bay System which currently supports 1,400 known marine plant and animal species and is the fourth-largest estuary in Florida, covering over 552 miles of river and estuary coastline.
Spanish for “beautiful bayou,” Bayou Chico has been a noted area landmark for over 450 years. Spanish scientist and leading intellectual of his time, Don Carlos Siguenza y Gongora, who was sent by the King of Spain to map Pensacola Bay and the surrounding area, was inspired by the crystal clear waters of the Bay and Bayou Chico. In 1693 he reported to the King that the inlet was “the finest jewel possessed by his Majesty…not only here in America but in all his kingdom.”
However, modern times have taken a toll on this precious resource. Unchecked midcentury industry compromised the health of Bayou Chico and threatened the connected ecosystems of the Bay area. As time went on, untreated stormwater that ran downhill from the 37 sloped-acres of highly-populated subdivisions and businesses, filled the bayou with silt, trash and pollutants which contaminated and muddied the crystal clear waters. Toxic chemicals impacted fragile underwater life forms and the displaced silt, sediment and garbage blocked the sunshine that light-dependent seagrasses needed to survive. With the water too murky for photosynthesis to occur, the seagrass meadows in Bayou Chico dissipated. With them, went lush keystone habitats for spawning and nursing fish, crab, oyster and shrimp.
However with new attitudes toward environmental protection and breakthroughs in stormwater engineering, Bayou Chico is enjoying a resurgence. Concerned community groups as well as local, state, and federal entities have championed the waterway and its connected springs. In December 2014, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded over $11 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to fund a series of six stormwater treatment and stream restoration projects designed to aid in the restoration of our “beautiful bayou.” One of those projects is the Bill Gregory Park Regional Stormwater Treatment Facility Project.
The improvements will also benefit the surrounding community by encouraging active lifestyles, promoting environmental and conservation awareness and offering equitable access to quality parks and public space. Incorporated upgrades and additional elements and amenities including enhanced LED lighting, walking paths, a boardwalk, sitting benches, extensive landscaping, parking and passive reflection areas will be added, revitalizing the existing park and having a beneficial effect on the entire neighborhood.
Mayor Ashton Hayward is proud to have sponsored this project and will continue to place a high priority on water quality and the health of our bayous, rivers and streams. Mayoral initiatives to change City field operating and construction procedures, strengthen the land development code and educate citizens about their personal impact on stormwater have played a vital role in making our waterways cleaner and our environment safe.
The $2.1 million, multi-purpose stormwater pond facility will be constructed on the grounds of the City of Pensacola’s Bill Gregory Park and will be fully-funded by the NFWF grant. Designed to capture and treat stormwater currently running into Bayou Chico, the innovative facility will include a twin-track stormwater system that will remove debris prior to entering a 2.5 acre ecologically enhanced detention pond that will also serve as a wetland habitat for a variety of plants, birds and other aquatic animal species.
Gulf Coast Utility Contractors
City Staff Project Contact
Email Derrik Owens
The Bill Gregory Park Stormwater Treatment Facility Project survey and preliminary design milestones have been met and barring any unexpected delays, construction is expected to be completed in early spring 2018.