If you have been to the Snook Islands Natural Area, or traveled over the Lake Worth Bridge in the last few months, you may have wondered what all that equipment and boats are about.
Just to the north of the bridge a work area is visible where the second phase of the Snook Islands Restoration Project is well underway, and to the south is the Bryant Park project which will bring new boat ramps and two new piers – one complete with a new kayak launch!
The Andy Reid from the Sun Sentinal has a great article that provides more information on the project, you can read the article in it’s entirety below, or click here for the original article.
Snook Islands growing in Lake Worth Lagoon
“Heron and fishermen alike are getting new hunting grounds in the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Mounds of dirt floating by barge along the Intracoastal Waterway are laying the groundwork for new sea grass beds and mangrove islands soon to take root off the shores of Lake Worth.
Months of work has begun on the $2.3 million project to expand the Snook Islands Natural Area, 100 acres of marine habitat initially created in 2005 to help breathe new life into the lagoon — suffering from decades of waterfront development and pollution.
The new expansion is expected to add more mangrove islands, oyster reefs and sea grass beds, which provide habitat for fish, wading birds and manatees while attracting fishermen, birdwatchers and kayakers to the waterfront.
The work also includes adding new sea grass beds and mangroves offshore of nearby Bryant Park.
“What we have proven is [that] we can create vast areas of sea grass, oysters and mangroves that bring a lot of birds and fish and help filter the water,” said Daniel Bates, Palm Beach County‘s deputy director of Environmental Resources Management. “It has good recreational benefits and good habitat benefits at the same time.”
The creation of the Snook Islands is aimed at fixing environmental problems lingering from dredging and development that started decades ago.
Sediment dredged from the lagoon in the 1920s was used to fill in wetlands and expand the Lake Worth waterfront where the city’s golf course now sits.
But that digging left underwater holes that through the years collected polluted muck, smothered life-giving sea grass beds and worsened water quality.
The initial $18 million Snook Islands project started filling in those holes and enabled planting 11 acres of mangroves, about 2 acres of oyster reefs and 60 acres of sea grass beds just north of Lake Worth Bridge.
This year, work was finished on $2 million of public access facilities that included a 600-foot boardwalk, a fishing pier, boat docks and a kayak and canoe launch.
The new expansion calls for adding about 7 acres of sea grass beds, another 1/2-acre of oyster reefs and 3/4-acre of mangroves parallel to the existing Snook Islands, Bates said.
Another 5 acres of sea grass beds and 1/2-acre of mangroves are planned off shore of Bryant Park, on the south side of the bridge.
More Snook, tarpon, redfish and bait fish can already be found thanks to the initial Snook Islands project, according to fishermen who target the area.
“That was one big dead zone. It was nothing but muck. Now you build these island chains and it has drawn fish,” said charter fishing captain Danny Barrows, who primarily fishes the lagoon. “They are fish magnets … It’s a fun place to fish.”
The work is expected to last about six months and is being paid for with state funds, according to Bates.
The dirt being used to fill in the dredge holes comes from digging to create new wetlands at the county’s Okeeheelee Park.
A parade of dump trucks brings the dirt to Byrant Park, where a long conveyor belt on the shoreline feeds the dirt onto barges that carry it to the dump sites.
The kayak launch, boardwalk and other recreation amenities that opened this year have helped give people more access to the waterway, said Juan Ruiz, Lake Worth’s Leisure Services Director.
“It has been a great benefit, a great amenity to the city,” Ruiz said. “We are really pleased with the project. It gets used every day.”
Mangroves once lined the shores of the lagoon, before waterfront development brought seawalls that wiped away the vital marine habitat.
The Snook Islands Natural Area and the newly completed South Cove in West Palm Beach are among the environmental restoration projects in the lagoon aimed at bringing back more marine habitat.
While too much shoreline has been tampered with to fully restore the lagoon, Bates said, “we can certainly make steps in the right direction.”
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The Snook Islands are one of the must-paddle areas of the Lake Worth Lagoon. Located just north of the Lake Worth Bridge, the Snook Islands exist in a former dead zone. This portion of the Lagoon had been dredged to such a depth that there was no oxygen and it could not support animal or plant habitats. Now the area stretches for 1.5 miles along the Lake Worth Golf Course and features Oyster Reefs and 4 Mangrove Islands.
The Palm Beach County Snook Islands Restoration Project included:
>Restoration of 100 acres of wetland habitat.
>Created a natural and sustainable shoreline over 1 mile long.
>Eliminated exotic and evasive plant species such as Australian Pine from 5 acres of shoreline and restored almost 2 acres of existing mangrove fringe.
>Planted 11 acres of Mangroves.
>Planted almost 4 acres of Spartina (Cordgrass).
>Created over 2 acres of Oyster Reefs.
>Restored 40 acres of sup-tidal habitat to encourage sea grasses.
The Snook Islands N.A. also features a handy kayak launch, a 600 foot boardwalk, fishing piers and boat docks. Phase II/Bryant Park Wetlands should be getting underway soon and will add more Mangrove Islands and Oyster Reefs on the South side of the Lake Worth Bridge, just off shore from Bryant Park.
The Snook Islands can be paddled at any tide, although at and around low tide gives the most complete view of the islands. A drop off area is available at the Snook Islands Kayak Launch with free parking located a short walk away.