TEMPLE TERRACE — The city’s bats may soon have a place to roost.
Temple Terrace City Council members chose Scout Park, a small city playground adjacent to Riverhills Park, as the best spot to build a replica of the 1920s-era bat tower this week.
By unanimous vote, council members selected a riverfront site at the north end of the park for the project. The Temple Terrace Preservation Society hopes to begin construction in the fall.
The Scout Park location was one of four potential sites the city council chose from a list of 20 in July after residents protested a proposed riverfront location in Riverhills Park. The other sites under consideration were a tennis court area in Riverhills Park and two spots at Rotary Park near Fowler Avenue and Interstate 75.
The board members coalesced around Scout Park after council members Bob Boss, Alison Fernandez and Eddie Vance said it was their first choice.
They touted the park’s easy access, comfortable distance from neighboring houses, and convenience to parking and bathrooms nearby.
Council members, David Pogorilich and Grant Rimbery, initially supported other locations but said they could support their colleagues’ choice.
Pogorilich, who met with several citizen groups to talk about the proposed sites, favored a riverside location at Rotary Park. Rimbey pushed for the Riverhills Park site.
The city council resolution authorizes City Manager Jerry Seeber to prepare a construction and lease agreement with the preservation society.
After a series of public meetings about potential sites for the bat tower, only a handful of residents were present for the council’s decision.
Most attendees, including Riverhills Drive resident Scott Hines who led a neighborhood campaign to nix plans to build the tower in Riverhills Park near his home, said he and his neighbors supported the council’s decision to pick Scout Park.
Temple Terrace Preservation Society President Tim Lancaster said he was happy the organization could begin making construction plans.
“We felt Riverhills and Scout park sites were way stronger when you consider all aspect to a make a good project,” Lancaster said.
The preservation society is behind the effort to build a new bat tower to resemble the original tower created by bat expert and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Charles Campbell in 1924. It was destroyed by an arsonist in 1979.
The preservation society raised money to cover construction costs, which includes $22,500 in matching funds from Hillsborough County.
Not everyone was pleased with the council’s decision.
Nick Hall of 711 West River Drive called the council’s action “a reckless disregard for the environment.”
Hall, whose house borders Scout Park, said he was concerned bat droppings would contaminate the Hillsborough River and cause algae blooms and fish kills near the park.
Fernandez said she didn’t share Hall’s concerns. However, she urged the preservation society to initially limit the tower’s capacity to 50,000-100,000 bats, rather than the 200,000-600,000 proposed.
“It will give people a peace of mind, and we can see how it goes,” Fernandez said.