Most people walk or boat by it every day and don’t even know it exists. Years ago, Ulele Spring was reduced to a stormwater pipe emptying into the Hillsborough River near downtown. Tom Ries, of the nonprofit Ecosphere Restoration Institute, has been working diligently to recreate a natural landscape for the spring to enter the river.
Once completed the spring will include a basin where manatees can refuge from cooler water during the winter. The wetland and uplands associated with the spring contoured and planted with native vegetation.
The project is funded with five grants totaling $670,000, and will be an integral part of Water Works Park, which is also under renovation. In August of 2012, the River Board took action to endorse the project and recommend that the entire spring flow be utilized in the natural spring run for the benefit of wildlife, including manatees, rather than have any of the water diverted for other uses, such as irrigation or as a potable water source.