Hugh Taylor Birch State Park’s Long Lake is part of a freshwater coastal dune lake system that once spanned nine miles along the coast of southeast Florida. These coastal dune freshwater lakes formed over many centuries as a barrier island. As development occurred, much of the stretch was filled in and/or broken up into a series of smaller lakes as roadways or trail-ways were installed. Over time, these lakes formed silt bottoms as aquatic plant life dropped their leafy matter and it decayed, becoming an impermeable barrier against saltwater intrusion from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean.
In 2016 and 2018, with help from the Community Foundation of Broward, other private donations, Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale, the Friends engaged in two phases of mechanical clean out of the lake. In the first phase, invasive plant species were removed from the lake along with four feet of muck. The nearly one-mile lake became navigable once again for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and pedal boats. Additionally, the result of removing cattails, non-indigenous vegetation and debris provided a vital habit for our native local plant and wildlife. In phase two, laborers spent 200 man-hours removing debris from the impassable and debris-clogged 800-foot moat that runs along the eastern side of the park’s coastal dune lake. Approximately one-foot deep of debris was removed from the 12′-wide moat and was stacked along the sides of the moat (an estimated 28,800 square feet of debris was collected). Volunteers from local Corporations assisted in gathering debris and placing it in dumpsters. Once the top layer of debris was removed, a licensed contractor spent 4 weeks using a suction pump to remove 2 to 3 feet of muck from the floor of the moat. It was pumped into porous nylon bags where it drained. It was subsequently repurposed as fill dirt within the park, creating a mangrove rehabilitation area in the northern section of the park.
Phase 3 is underway thanks to funding from the Community Foundation of Broward and Bank of America. This phase is addressing the North end of Long Lake. This area has yet to be touched and remains inaccessible to canoes and kayaks. The lack of accessibility also affects the monthly maintenance to the lake, leaving areas untreated. Beginning in April 2023, crews from Organic Sediment Removal Systems (OSR) will begin by removing years’ worth of sediment build up from the bottom of the lake into a “muck” bag using a series of pumps and hoses. This organic material accumulates over decades, restricting water levels and changing the natural properties of the ecosystem. The muck bags will be placed in a field by the Manatee Pavilion. The sediment tends to dry quickly in South Florida due to our porous sediment and our warm climate; we predict it needing 3-6 months. To comply with environmental policies and standards, the sediment must be soil tested after it dries to determine where it can be spread. Soil can contain a variety of compounds that may or may not allow it to be left on site.
For more information on how you can help, contact Michelle Schmitz at 954-566-0660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate towards further restoration efforts, click here.