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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
Northeast News

Temple Terrace bat tower sites to be discussed at workshop

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TEMPLE TERRACE - Some residents have been going batty over plans to find a home for a replica of the city's iconic bat tower that was burned by an arsonist 34 years ago.

Now the city plans to hold a meeting to give the entire community a chance to offer input about proposed sites for the bat tower in three city parks.

The workshop, organized by the city staff, is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at City Hall. Several Temple Terrace City Council members are expected to attend, but their presence is not required.

There will be displays showing the sites under consideration and information about the viability of each location. City staff and bat experts will be available to answer questions.

In June, council members shelved their support for a riverfront site in Riverhills Park preferred by local preservationists after a group of residents complained about the location. The residents expressed concerns about smells and diseases caused by bats and children safety.

The council gave the city staff 30 days to propose a list of alternative sites suitable for a bat tower.

Last month, the city council narrowed a list of 20 new proposed sites to parcels in three city parks: Rotary Park near Fowler Avenue and Interstate 75; the tennis court area in Riverhills Park behind Riverhills Elementary; and tree-lined areas in adjacent Scout Park.

The council directed the staff to take another 30 days to talk to residents and get their feedback about building the bat tower in one of the three city parks.

Scott Hines of Riverhills Drive, who organized neighborhood opposition to the original riverfront park site, was thrilled the proposed tower, if built, would not block his view of the water. But he was unhappy about the possibility of passing the buck to residents in another neighborhood.

"We don't love it," Hines said, referring to the city's solution. "It will end up in somebody else's back yard."

However, Rotary Park might be the most practical spot for the bat tower, Hines said. It is closer to commercial development than the other parks, and bat sightings should be good there.

Hines believes the city council has an obligation to inform residents who live near the three proposed sites about its plans. Talk of replacing the bat tower began more than a decade ago. The original city landmark sat on the bank of the Hillsborough River near present-day Florida College for more than 50 years.

Charles Campbell, a pioneer in the study of bats and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, invented the structure.

The original bat tower in Temple Terrace was built in 1924 by housing developers to help control the pesky mosquito population at the time.

Over time, the wooden structure began deteriorating due to neglect. In 1979, the tower was in the process of being moved and rehabilitated when an arsonist burned it down.

No one was ever arrested.

The Temple Terrace Preservation Society adopted the bat tower as a pet project more than a decade ago. The organization raised roughly half of the estimated $40,000 needed to build the new structure. Hillsborough County stepped in this year with a $22,000 matching grant to help cover construction cost.

When built, the new structure will look similar to the original one. It would stand 40 feet tall and be 10 square feet wide at the base.

The proposed tower would likely house up to 200,000 bats but could accommodate as many as 600,000.

The city staff is expected to recommend a site for the proposed tower at the City Council meeting on Aug. 20.

kknight@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7413

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