VERO BEACH - Indian River County has officially opened Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve, the county’s newest park.

Osprey Acres had a soft opening in July, when it became accessible to the public. Now, following an Oct. 30 ceremony, the partners in the project have declared it “complete” and open for both recreation and stormwater nutrient filtering.

The ceremony included a ribbon cutting and remarks from County Commissioner Bob Solari, the county’s legislative delegation, and representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. John’s River Water Management District, which approved a permit for the park in 2016.

The goal of the park is to capture nutrients before they reach the Indian River Lagoon. According to an SJRWMD statement, Osprey Acres Stormwater Park extends the water treatment at the adjacent Osprey Marsh Algal Turf Scrubber Facility to naturally remove residual nitrogen and phosphorous from that facility’s effluent and canal water before it flows to the Indian River Lagoon. The water to be treated at Osprey Acres will come from both Osprey Marsh and untreated canal water.

The park is anticipated to remove 9,000 pounds of total nitrogen and 400 pounds of total phosphorus annually.

The property was originally planned for more than 400 homes. Now it will be a blend of natural Florida ecosystems “including uphill pine, mesic oak hammock, a small scrub area, and now manmade wetlands,” according to a sign posted at the park. “Having these various habitats promotes a wealth of biodiversity within the property.”

The $7.4 million project was funded jointly by Indian River County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the SJRWMD.

“Indian River County is excited about the grand opening of Osprey Acres,” said County Administrator Jason Brown. “We appreciate the partnership between the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the county that made this project a reality.”

Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle of the St. Johns River Water Management District called the park “one of the most beautiful projects that we’ve had the honor of helping to fund.”

“While stormwater treatment is the goal, the beauty of Osprey Acres is in its packaging,” said Dr. Shortelle. “Several hiking trails run through 60 acres of pristine native upland habitat and 17 acres of aquatic habitat where fish and waterfowl abound. It’s a slice of easily accessible Florida wilderness in Vero Beach that’s also helping to protect Indian River Lagoon.”

There are five hiking trails totaling about 3.8 miles: a 1.8 mile main trail, two .6 mile trails called Marsh Rabbit Run and Bobcat Run, and two .4 mile trails called Woodpecker Way and Gopher Tortoise Trail.

“We are proud to be a funding partner for one of the most beautiful stormwater parks in the Indian River Lagoon region,” said St. Johns River Governing Board member Douglas Bournique. “Osprey Acres melds much-needed stormwater treatment with recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities in a way that is accessible to the community. This park illustrates what we can accomplish by working together.”

“Partnerships allow us to pool our financial resources and find solutions to our water quality challenges,” said Dr. Shortelle. “Thanks to Indian River County for being a leader in innovative water quality improvement projects.”

“As we work to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and in the state of Florida, projects such as the Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve are a prime example of how we protect Florida together,” said Jason Andreotta, director of DEP’s Southeast District. “DEP is proud to be a partner in this important project that will remove nutrients, promote the diversification of species and enhance the overall environment.”

Osprey Acres is open every day except Tuesday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The park is located at 925 5th St. SW, Vero Beach, just east of Oslo Middle School.

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