SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It’s been a long time coming, but Friday was the official groundbreaking for the Mangrove Bayou of the Bay Project.
A number of stakeholders joined in on the celebration, kicking off the start of construction on the project that will completely transform 53 acres of the Bayfront over the next 10 to 15 years.
But the ceremony also held another deeper meeting. Attendees were able to remember the generosity of two of their first donors, Charles and Margery Barancik.
Mangroves don’t always get the credit they deserve. They work hard to clean the water, keep runoff out, provide a habitat for the birds and deposit key nutrients to the underwater ecosystem.
“But they do it very quietly. We take the mangroves for granted almost," said Rebecca Barancik. "They’re not very showy like all of our beautiful flowering plants and our oak trees that are huge and you can’t avoid them. It just reminded me of Margery and Chuck, the way they very quietly, very humbling worked to make a difference in this community.”
The couple quietly donated more than $50 million before their life was tragically and abruptly taken in a car crash on Longboat Key days before Christmas.
“Many people, when they lose their loved ones, it’s harder to continue on with their legacy," said Rebecca Barancik, the daughter-in-law of Chuck and Margery. "We’re very lucky that Margie and Chuck left us with the means to continue to do great works.”
The Foundation’s primary focus is on mental health, education and creating new opportunities for families, yet the Baranciks’ were one of the first to support the vision for a new Bayfront, too.
“They gave almost $1 million in capital endowment, to enable us to transform," explained A.G. Lafley, Founding CEO of the Bay Park Conservancy. "To preserve, enhance, restore and ultimately sustain this Mangrove Bayou that’s behind me.”
Breaking ground Friday and when finished this summer, the Bayou will have a 10-foot wide rubberized walkway that wraps a half-mile around the mangroves, with a buffer that pre-treats the storm water flowing into the Bay.
Now, the ball is rolling.
“We are moving ahead with our larger 10-acre Phase 1," said Bill Waddell, managing director for The Bay Project. "We submitted our site plan application late last year. We hope to get to the City Commission by summer for approval and then have the necessary permits that we need to break ground around the end of the year, with the ribbon cutting on that first phase in about two years.”
For more information about this project, click here.