Skip to main content

New phase of summer restoration for Mercabo Cove approved

April 19, 2024
By Staff Report

Tidal shelf planted with red mangroves; view will be softenend to hide seawall


The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association Board of Directors recently approved a new phase of restoration for Mercabo Cove. This phase will build upon previous efforts to improve water quality, enhance habitat, reduce long-term seawall maintenance costs and improve aesthetics.

When the 2020 restoration project was completed, ecological surveys of the Cove immediately began to show improved water quality and an increased number of fish, dolphins, manatees and even the endangered smalltooth sawfish utilizing the site. While the GICIA Board was happy with the ecological successes recorded within the Cove, it was determined that the site could be further improved by removing additional sections of seawall. 

The GICIA Land Conservancy Committee, chaired by Gordon McBride, has been working with engineers and Department of Environmental Protection staff to find a creative and practical approach to eliminating additional unsightly seawall from the most visible section of the north side of the canal.

After evaluating the site with contractors and environmental permitting agency staff, it was decided to reuse a technique used previously on the eastern side of the entrance into the Cove.

Above, the old Mercury test site, Mercabo, before the remediation.                  Submitted photos

As you can see from the photos, the concrete wall was cut just above the high-water mark, and a tidal shelf was created and planted with red mangroves and other native grasses. This created an illusion that no seawall exists while maintaining the essential live barnacle and oyster habitat.  The mangroves and other wetland vegetation planted on the shelf grow to create a beautiful, lush habitat.

This same technique will be used this summer when over 700’ of seawall on the north side of the Coves is removed and planted. Removing such a large expanse of concrete will significantly improve and soften the view of the Cove that residents see from the causeway. In addition to being visually appealing, the mangroves and other vegetation will create additional habitat for birds.

Once the trees are established, they will also create shade and detritus for the aquatic life within the Cove.

As many people know, the Mercabo Site was once the home of the Mercury Test Center. 

When the GICIA originally purchased the 30 acres, with the generous support of the community, it housed nine buildings, including dry boat storage, a conference center, an office, a small hotel and a room for 185 wet slips.

The GICIA’s vision for the site was to completely restore the uplands to create a visually attractive native bird and wildlife sanctuary forever protected from development. Once the upland restoration was completed, the GICIA began to explore the possibility of creating an aquatic sanctuary, and the Mercabo Cove Restoration Project was born.

This innovative project is estimated to cost $300,000, and the GICIA is pleased to be able to complete this project without additional fundraising from the Boca Grande Community.  As the GICIA continues to protect Island Life, take a moment the next time you drive by Mercabo and imagine that site today if there was no GICIA.

If you would like more information on this project or would like to become a member of the GICIA please contact the GICIA Office at (941) 964-2667.