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A rendering indicates what the east approach to the Treasure Island Causeway could look like with design changes.

TREASURE ISLAND — Sometime by spring 2022, the eastern portion of the Treasure Island Causeway should be totally redesigned, with landscaped drainage swales, palm trees and a colorfully designed median strip.

City commissioners praised the Public Works Department’s design proposal during a March 16 commission meeting and hoped enhanced landscaping would divert motorists’ attention away from unslightly fences and walls that separate the roadway from abutting residential developments.

Assistant Director of Public Works Stacy Boyles told commissioners the reconstruction of the east Causeway “provides an opportunity to redefine the city’s main entrance and to create a plant palette unique to Treasure Island.”

The project is scheduled to go out for bid in April. Improvements are estimated to take nine months to complete and will include instillation of drainage bioswales on the north and south side of the roadway. The city previously budgeted $179,555 for the project.

Plants for the swales are specific to the project and have been approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which is a partial funder of the project, she told commissioners. Bottle brush trees will be removed and new foliage and palm trees planted.

“In effort to beautify the corridor and to assist with nutrient uptake from collected stormwater, Florida-friendly landscaping capable of withstanding wet and dry conditions has been selected,” Boyles said.

Commissioners were given two options for the redesign. One incorporates a serpentine design pattern in placement of bushes and trees along the median, and utilizes creeping fig, sod and ground cover between landscaped areas. Another option utilizes a more linear design, with bushes placed in straight rows along the median, and just a ground cover.

The median itself will be transformed with a colorful “plant palette” that includes orange, green and purple ground covers comprised of purple queen, foxtail fern, creeping fig, lirope, agapantus and daylilly.

A variety of trees and bushes include pink and purple trumpet trees, light green dwarf duranta, existing white Natchez crapes, large signature madjool palms, dwarf bottlebrush trees, whispy pink muhly bushes, light pink Queen Emma and others.

“Staff foresees the new landscape design to be the city’s first large transition to Florida-friendly, relatively drought-resistant vegetation,” Boyles said. As part of the project, Duke Energy will replace the median streetlights with decorative poles to match the west Causeway and will bury related power lines.

Although swale landscaping design is largely complete, a resident asked if palm trees could be added, Boyles said.

“We’ve done a significant amount of research as to the types of palms that may do good in this area and still be Florida-friendly; they are not easy to source in this quantity, but we do have some potentially promising leads,” she said. “We could go ahead and include palms in the bid package that we send out for the medians, because it would have to be done after the Causeway landscaping project is completed anyway … The price of the palms could be revisited once the bid package comes back for approval.”

Mayor Tyler Payne said a big complaint along the Causeway is the variation of fences that separate the residential developments from the road. He asked whether the new landscaping would block the view of the fence walls.

Boyles said it will still be an issue, because the landscaping is primarily grasses. “We’re very limited to what we can do in that area to maintain the drainage conveyance … They have to be shallow because the groundwater table is so high, so we have to be careful and considerate of the roots that we put there.”

Payne said the unsightly fencing along the Causeway “is one of the biggest complaints from people coming into the city.” He suggested perhaps the city could offer to power-wash or paint the fences.

City Manager Garry Brumback noted the fences are technically in St. Petersburg. “And those fences are all privately owned,” he said. “It would be prohibitively expensive for us to get into the business of maintaining and replacing those fences. It’s a tough challenge. I don’t know where we would go to do something like that.”

Commissioner Deborah Toth said she, too, has heard comments about the multiple fences looking “dreadful.”

“I explain (the fences) are privately owned property and we really can’t mandate a way to clean them or do something with them,” Toth said.

Commissioners approved Boyles’ design suggestion of the serpentine design version. “I think it will look very nice … anything we put out there will be a huge improvement,” Boyles noted.