The Ulele Spring flows freely once again.
It’s been rejuvenated as part of a large project to enhance the waterfront property at the old Tampa Water Works building and nearby city park that bears the same name.
“A year ago there were a lot of non-native plants in this basin, and so it was hard for animals, ducks and stuff to come in here,” said Tom Ries of the Ecosphere Restoration Institute. “But now that we've cleared that out and planted all the native plants in this zone, the wildlife has come back."
The idea is for people to come back to the area as well. The nearly complete Ulele Restaurant is expected to be open in the summer with a park and splash zone shortly after.
"I'm astounded by how beautiful that piece of property is,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “And what an amazing transformation of basically an abandoned piece of property and an abandoned building can turn out to be."
The Tampa Riverwalk passes over the newly created basin. On Saturday, several dozen volunteers will plant 4,000 native plants along the spring’s path.
"I can't be more excited and more happy and pleased that the community is taking ownership of this,” the mayor said. “It doesn't cost us a thing. It's a labor of love, and it doesn't get any better than that."
Ries said he was proud to be part of the project.
"To finally see this open and not just be grass and a pipe is astonishing,” he said. “I think it'll be a jewel and an attraction for downtown residents."