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Gainesville Chooses Natural Approach To Restore Cofrin Park

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AUthor adding Cutline
Habitat naturalists like Don Musen, pictured, went back and forth for almost 10 years before deciding on the best approach to restore Bevill Creek, he said. City employees hope to reverse soil erosion in Cofrin Park by using coconut-fiber baskets and boulders. Debora Lima / WUFT News

Tractors, barricade tape and mounds of rocks recently appeared in Cofrin Park. The park has been closed for restoration since April.

The city of Gainesville is taking a natural approach to overhaul the infrastructure of the grounds, located at 4810 NW Eighth Ave., according to Don Musen, city of Gainesville habitat naturalist.

The goal is to offer locals a nature spot that is both enjoyable and environmentally regenerative. 

“It’s a balancing act,” Musen said.

The city is working to restore Bevill Creek, where soil erosion caused sediment run-off, the spread of pollutants through moving water.

The creek currently runs about 10 feet deeper than it should. Its natural state runs about 5 feet below the surface, but it is currently at about 15 feet.

The city will not use concrete slabs, which would hinder the creek’s natural evolution, Musen said. Coconut fiber baskets will be used instead to help bring the creek back to its original shallow state.

City employees involved in the project will also create horseshoe-shaped structures using boulders to slow water flow, impede sand run-off and, ultimately, reverse deterioration of the creek bank.

The single structure installed one week ago has, so far, collected more than six inches of sand, Musen said.

“Imagine what it could do over time,” he said.

The city is also removing the Cofrin house, a 4,400-square-foot residence that belonged to the Cofrin family. This will contribute to the creek’s revitalization, said Linda Demetropolous, city of Gainesville nature manager. 

Local engineering firm Miller Slayton Architects assessed the home in 2009 and determined its close proximity to the creek was causing cracks in the house’s northeast corner.

The city hoped to transform the building into an educational institution, but engineers said renovations necessary to bring it up to code would cost as much as $650,000, a figure both Demetropoulos and Musen called prohibitively expensive for local taxpayers.

Demolition will begin once restoration of the creek is complete. Musen said the city is in the process of scheduling the demolition. It should begin in late August and wrap up before the end of September, he said. 

The city hopes to re-open the park for public access in October, Musen said.

“We wanted to minimize the time the park was closed,” he said. “So we made sure that the work (on the creek and the house) was concurrent.”

About Debora Lima

Debora is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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