Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Revitalizing Wetlands and Wetland Habitat. The combination of smart engineering and environmental conservation, Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a beautiful habitat filled with gravel trails and boardwalks, with breathtaking views of the Florida skyline, birds, alligators, wild horses, and more. The project is part of an ambitious plan to improve water quality in the Alachua sink and restore more than 1,300 acres of wetlands in the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The new 125-acre enhancement wetland uses a naturally sustainable filtration system to remove sediment and trash while reducing nutrient loads in order to meet federal requirements. The wetland not only provides protection for the Floridan Aquifer, but establishes a natural habitat for wildlife and creates opportunities for public recreation, wildlife study and education.
As Construction Manager for the project, Wharton-Smith oversaw all efforts to construct the wetland including moving over one million cubic yards of earthwork and filling in two miles of agricultural drainage canals to restore the natural sheet flow of water across the wetlands. The construction also excavated, reshaped, restored, and stabilized the site, building water control structures and three, 75-acre wetland cells planted with specific vegetation to naturally remove nitrogen from the water as it filters through the cells before being released onto the Prairie. The project also included construction of a visitors center, education center, public restrooms, natural trails, boardwalks, observation towers, ranger residence facilities, and associated site work. Wharton-Smith self-performed a portion of the work.
“Environmental coordination on this project was extremely important. Wharton-Smith managed issues associated with water quality, cultural resources, soil contamination, wetlands, and flood plains. They worked closely with the site contractor and representatives from local government, the Water Management District, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that environmental impacts were minimized.” – Alice Rankeillor, P.E., Project Manager, Gainesville Regional Utilities