Public support needed to bolster Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands



Published:

This artist rendering shows what the Ritch Grissom Wetlands could look like in the future.

VIERA VOICE Jill Blue

Improvements soon could be coming to the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands property.

Raleigh Berry, a senior environmental scientist for Brevard County Natural Resources Management, is proposing additions and refurbishments that would cost an estimated $750,000, according to Berry.

“We want to harden some of the roads, and we want to take some of the roads and devote them exclusively to pedestrians and bicyclists,’’ Berry said. “We also want to have a proper parking area instead of what we have now.

I have a very active volunteer group, but they operate out of their own vehicles. We would love to be able to have sort of a ranger station and a welcome facility for them. So, that’s the plan.”

The plan, which Berry said had been in the works for years, was introduced at a dinner function on April 13, following Day 1 of the Viera Wetlands Nature Festival.

At least part of the impetus for the plan, Berry said, stems from the fact that the facility was not constructed to handle the traffic that visits each day.

“We never expected when the system was designed to have the popularity that we see,’’ Berry said. “The roads that you see, for example, were designed to handle one or two trucks a day from the treatment plant.

“They weren’t designed for 200,000 vehicles a year, so that takes its toll and we need to be able to address that problem.”

Berry, who said he’s been with Brevard County Natural Resources Management for a little less than 15 years, noted that the public will have to support the project financially.

“I would expect, given the nature of the site, because it’s a sewage treatment wetland, it’s not a conservation area. It’s not a park. It’s not a wilderness reserve, so the branch opportunities are few and far between for a location like that. So, I expect that we will have to rely on public donations and sponsorships.”

Laurie Widzgowski, the marketing and event coordinator for The Viera Company and the Viera Community Institute, noted that the project has the full support of those organizations.

“We’ll support Raleigh and his fundraising efforts as much as we can,’’ Widzgowski said. “We’re hoping that this event this evening will be the stepping stone for that in getting the committee organized to get the right people involved to get the funds into doing the enhancements that are needed.’’ VV