While the goal of Sarasota County's flood control project was simple—reroute stormwater around homes and into creeks—it produced an unexpected, but welcome, byproduct: luring birds back to the wildlife-barren land.

Now called The Celery Fields, the site is a regional destination for bird watchers. People drive for miles to watch the migrations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared it a bird sanctuary, and it's recorded on the Florida Trail.

“The initial objective was to provide for flood protection,” says Theresa Connor, PE, general manager of Sarasota County Environmental Services. “But the other benefits include enhanced water quality, a wildlife sanctuary, and passive recreation for people to enjoy for years to come.”

To enhance this new and unexpected habitat, the county's parks and recreation department partnered with the local chapter of the Audubon Society to add walking trails, picnic areas, and signs identifying the flora and fauna. This phase is being funded by donations to the Sarasota Audubon Society.

When completed, the site will be managed by the county's stormwater, public works, and parks and recreation divisions.

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