An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Nature recovers faster than infrastructure at Myakka River State Park

The ecologically significant recreation venue remains closed while hurricane repairs continue.

Hurricane Ian's winds, rain and flooding substantially damaged Myakka River State Park's infrastructure, as well as its ecology. As part of the Myakka River watershed, which holds flood waters thus minimizing their impact farther afield, the storm also illustrated the great importance of these popular public lands for safeguarding our communities.

As the Wild and Scenic Myakka River is primarily rain-fed, its levels vary seasonally. During our wet summer, areas around the river, such as floodplain marshes and hydric hammocks, commonly flood. Florida’s native habitats are adapted to this seasonal fluctuation. And the normal hydro-cycles of wetlands are crucial for our native flora and fauna.

As result of extreme rainfall associated with Hurricane Ian, the river, already at flood stage before the storm, crested at 12.73 feet — well above major flood stage. With the park's 7-mile long drive under water, park management surveyed roadside storm damage by airboat.

Most structures and buildings in the park, including the historic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, were flooded, and the park's utility infrastructure, including waste and drinking water, was submerged.

Once the flooding receded, extensive recovery efforts commenced to clear roads and public areas from damaged trees and debris. To assure visitor safety, to date, more than 18,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris — enough to fill 5.5 Olympic swimming pools — have been removed from just the main roads, picnic areas and campgrounds in the 58 square mile park. Road shoulders, eroded from the flooding, are being back filled, and the park's utility infrastructure is being repaired.