Scenic USA - Florida
Grissom Memorial Wetlands
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
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Florida's Brevard County has made significant refinements in its water reuse programs over the last decade. Used for lawn irrigation and roadway median plantings, reclaimed wastewater is stored in area ponds and piped throughout surrounding cities, eliminating use of the primary water source from underground aquifers for lawn irrigation.
Another great example of water savings is found at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, adjacent to the waste treatment facility. The 200 acre wetlands site was divided into four shallow cells, surrounding a central lake where treated sewage water is polished before being released into the upper St. John River Basin.
Not only has this wetland attracted native vegetation and a variety of wildlife, but also receives visitors from all around the country. A drivable dike winds through the wetlands and encircles the main lake, allowing visitors an up-close look at resident and migratory birds. Along this web of single lane roads you'll also find guests jogging, walking and biking the dike system, while enjoying all the marsh activity and getting a little exercise.
The wetlands project has been so sucessful the site has been included as part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Recent sightings of two masked ducks and a mangrove swallow drew international attention and thousands of birders. Additional wetlands favorites include the Florida alligator, aquatic turtles, otters, white-tailed deer and an occasional bobcat. A list of area birds species include the bald eagle, great horned owl, coot, wood duck, northern pintail, egret and heron. Rarely sighted birds, such as the least bittern, king rail, limpkin, glossy ibis, black-necked stilt and purple gallinule continue to draw in birders from around the country. One of the most popular finds here at the Viera Wetlands is the crested caracara. A Florida native, the caracara dates back to the last iceage when the ocean's waters were locked up in ice. A vast oak savannah, home to the northern caracara, stretched from Florida to Texas in the area where the Gulf of Mexico is today. Now with a limited range, the crested caracara is present year-round at the wetlands, with estimates of only 250 nesting pairs in Florida.
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