How Palm Beach County, Florida restored wildlife habitat and boosted quality of life

In Palm Beach County, Florida, the Lake Worth Lagoon is 20 miles long, stretching from North Palm Beach to Ocean Ridge.

It’s the largest estuary in Palm Beach County, and is separated from the ocean by Singer Island and Palm Beach Island. It features two permanent, human-made inlets.

A decade ago, the county had a problem. A 7-acre dredged hole in the lagoon had accumulated muck and was providing very little wildlife habitat value. Those loose, fine-grain, organic-rich muck sediments were easily resuspended in the water by storms or passing motorboats, causing increased turbidity which degrades surrounding habitats.

The solution was to cap the muck sediments with clean sand, and plant mangroves, seagrass, and oyster habitat. That’s what they did, and today, visitors, local residents, and wildlife alike enjoy a healthier and more beautiful lagoon.

While the three new islands that were created by this process are neither “natural” nor historically present, the ecosystems and habitat they restored certainly qualify on both counts.

The resulting benefits of this work—which was completed in September of 2012—are:

  • Increased nursery areas and habitat for fisheries, benthic organisms and wildlife;
  • Improved water quality; and
  • Increased opportunities for environmental education, recreation and ecotourism.

The initial phase of this project planted 5000 mangroves and 40,000 salt marsh plants, and stabilized the islands with limestone boulders.

The crowning touch was 10,000 red mangrove seedlings that volunteers planted in August of 2012.

In the process, they created over 6 acres of wetland habitat to support fisheries, wading and shore birds, manatees and sea turtles, comprising:

  • 2 acres of mangrove/salt marsh habitat;
  • 3.5 acres of seagrass habitat;
  • 1 acre of rock revetment/oyster reef;

Public amenities include a 556-foot boardwalk, an observation deck and an educational kiosk.

Visitors can now stroll down athe boardwalk, which extends to one of three mangrove islands within the Lake Worth Lagoon.

Six acres of restored wetlands support local fisheries, wading birds, manatees, and sea turtles.

Our thanks to sustainability consultant Randy S. VanHoose of Louisville, Kentucky for bringing this regenerative news to our attention!

All images courtesy of the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management.

See Palm Beach County website for the South Cove Natural Area.

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