Hidden spring now on display in Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Hidden spring now on display in Tampa

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Ulele Spring Ulele Spring
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - It gurgles as crystal clear water flows from the underground aquifer, and it once was the drinking water source for the city of Tampa. This natural spring was hidden and long-forgotten, until recently.  It's called the Ulele Spring, and it's just north of the big buildings of downtown Tampa.

"As far as we can tell, it's been here for over 100 years," said Tom Ries with Ecosphere Restoration Institute.

Ries says, the spring was eventually piped and hidden underground for decades. The water from the spring still flowed to the Hillsborough River through the pipe, but the river and its wildlife, like fish and manatees, had no access to that spring.

This hidden gem is now getting polished and put on display as Ries and others work to reopen the channel from the spring to the river. The flowing spring will soon be a beautiful feature along Tampa's new Riverwalk.

The last leg of the Rivewalk goes through Water Works park and ends at Ulele Spring. Two bridges will allow the Riverwalk to loop over the spring, so walkers can gaze straight down into the clear water.

Related story: Mayor Buckhorn breaks ground to restore Water Works Park

"Where else can you be in the urban part of a city like Tampa, walk along the river and see a spring, a natural spring like this with hopefully manatee and fish in there," said Ries.

The project cost $650,000, and it was paid for through grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

It is important to all these agencies to bring this forgotten spring back to its former glory.  There are a thousand fresh water springs in Florida, but only a few in the immediate Tampa Area.

"There's a couple along the Hillsborough River, Lowry Park has a spring, and there's one Sulpher Springs," said Ries.

This spring is at the base of the river and will allow wildlife like manatees to reach the water source without swimming so far up the river.

Ries expects the last basin of the spring to be dug out and the sea wall opened by the end of the year. The project should be completed by the spring of next year. Conveniently, the new restaurant opening on the banks of the spring will also open in the spring of 2014. That restaurant in the restored Water Works building will be called Ulele.
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