Public invited to grand reopening at renovated Bobby Jones Golf Club and Nature Park on Friday

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Florida Construction News staff writer

A grand reopening ceremony will be held at the Bobby Jones Golf Club and Nature Park from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 15 at the restored historic municipal golf course and new nature park, 1000 Circus Blvd in Sarasota.

“This will be a day to celebrate and remember,” said Mayor Liz Alpert. “Our historic municipal golf course has been restored and is a beautiful amenity for the community. The new wetlands already are cleaning stormwater and attracting wildlife. And, the  nature park and trails will be a destination for birders, bicyclists, and walkers. With a conservation easement on the property, it will be protected in perpetuity. There’s no question Bobby Jones will be an urban oasis for those who enjoy green space and being outdoors for generations to come.”

The city borrowed $20 million to fund the 96-year-old golf course restoration and new clubhouse.

Following extensive community discussion over five years, the city commission in 2022 unanimously approved downsizing Bobby Jones Golf Club from 45-holes to 27. The non-golf green space, totaling nearly 100-acres, was designated a nature park.

The commission also unanimously approved a conservation easement on the property in partnership with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. The agreement means the City-owned property will remain a protected, preserved green space in perpetuity.

To improve water quality, nearly 20 acres of wetlands were created, almost 14.5 acres of native grasses planted and 49,000 nutrient-filtering aquatic plants installed, including sawgrass, fire flag and pickerel weed.

In addition, a diversion weir was constructed along one of the main Phillippi Creek tributaries to divert water into the newly created wetlands. The water flow is regulated with two control structures in the wetlands, allowing the wetlands to serve as a regional stormwater treatment system. Ultimately, the filtered water flows into Roberts Bay, the intracoastal waters between Sarasota and Siesta Key. It is estimated 900 pounds of nitrogen and 300 pounds of phosphorus will be removed each year.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) granted the City of Sarasota $1.5 million to support the water quality improvements and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) provided a $487,500 grant.

“We’re grateful to the State of Florida for helping to fund the construction of the wetlands to improve our water quality,” said City Manager Marlon Brown. “Thank you to our many partners and supporters including SWFWMD, FDEP, Sarasota County government and the Conservation Foundation. This truly has been a significant community effort to restore our historic municipal golf course and create a new urban nature park that will be a community treasure enjoyed by generations.”

With the installation of new drainage pipes throughout the golf course and improved land grading, the property will drain quickly and efficiently following a rain event.

The American Society of Golf Course Architects honored Bobby Jones Golf Club and architect Richard Mandell earlier this month with a 2023 Environmental Excellence Award for improving stormwater retention and drainage, while reducing the risk of flooding. Bobby Jones is the only golf course in Florida to be recognized this year with the award and one of just eight in the United States.

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