County officials and community representatives and organizations, including the Sarasota Audubon Society, will celebrate the completion of the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility and a related project – replacement of the Raymond Road Bridge and other improvements – at a grand opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3. The ceremony at the gazebo just north of Palmer Boulevard will be followed by a 5k Fun Run starting at 6 p.m.

The Fun Run will last until 8 p.m., and Raymond Road will be closed from 5:30-7:30 p.m. For motorists, detour signs will be posted along Niobe Road and Porter Road.

Also, members of the Sarasota Audubon Society will be on hand to showcase bird-watching opportunities at the approximately 450-acre site, which formerly was used to grow celery. A total of 210 species of birds have been identified at the Celery Fields.

The Celery Fields site is south of Fruitville Road, east of Coburn and Apex roads, west of Center and Raymond roads and just north of a drainage canal that runs underneath the Raymond Road Bridge.

The approximately 75-foot-tall Observation Mound is the highest point of the regional stormwater facility, which is designed to provide stormwater runoff and detention, flood reduction and water quality improvements.

Specifically, the facility’s functions are to:

  1. Handle stormwater runoff from approximately 3,500 acres of the upper Phillippi Creek Basin in the Roberts Bay North Watershed
  2. Improve water quality as stormwater flows through created wetland vegetation
  3. Control upstream runoff from a 100-year storm event to reduce downstream flooding of roadways and structures
  4. Manage the amount of water flowing through and from the site with the use of internal
  5. Control gates provide water sampling opportunities to study the water quality benefits of the facility

The Celery Fields also continues to be a passive recreational site, with walking trails around the perimeter of the facility, an improved walking and bike trail on the Observation Mound, sidewalks and an expanded parking area at the gazebo.

The May 3 celebration also will mark the replacement of the Raymond Road Bridge and completion of related improvements to Raymond Road. The former single-lane wooden bridge was replaced with two 11-foot-wide concrete travel lanes, 6-foot-wide shoulders and a sidewalk on the west side. The project
also included widening of Raymond Road, new drainage structures and new sidewalks that connect the existing sidewalk on the south side of the bridge to the Celery Fields sidewalks on the north side.

The contractor for the $7.2 million Celery Fields project was Brooks & Freund LLC of Fort Myers. Funding was provided through the Phillippi Creek Basin stormwater assessments and a cooperative grant of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Frederick Derr & Company Inc. of Sarasota was the contractor for the $739,859 project to replace Raymond Road Bridge and make related improvements. As part of the Sarasota County Stimulus Program of fast-track, capital-improvement projects, funding for that project was provided through the voter-approved penny surtax (1-cent sales tax).

For the Fun Run, the first 200 runners/walkers who register will receive a commemorative T-shirt and medal for finishing the 5k run. Registration is only on-site on the day of the event from 4-5:45 p.m. In lieu of a registration fee, the Sarasota Audubon Society will collect donations for its future interpretive learning center at the Celery Fields.

For more information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000