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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Proposed bat tower in Temple Terrace finds foes

TEMPLE TERRACE - Residents near Riverhills Park have raised concerns about plans to place a bat tower too close to their homes. Some fear putting the bat sanctuary in the park, which is adjacent to Riverhills Elementary School, could create an unsafe environment for neighborhood children. “We are not opposed to the bat tower, just the location,” said Scott Hines, who lives in the 300 block of South Riverhills Drive. Hines and his wife, Karen, feel they have been left in the dark about plans for the highly anticipated replica of the city’s original bat tower that was torched by an arsonist in 1979.
Scott Hines said he fears tens of thousands of bats will move into the tower once it is built. That will increase the chance of their children coming into contact with bat droppings and increase their exposure to the threat of rabies, a disease bats are known to carry. Local preservationists have been raising funds for years to replace the iconic symbol of the city’s past. They recently began focusing on a site on the edge of the Hillsborough River at Riverhills Park after they abandoned an idea to build the tower on a nearby tiny island. On Tuesday, Hines accompanied by his wife said he was disappointed no one told him in advance about the council’s plans to vote on a site location on April 2. The board voted 4-0 to approve construction of the bat tower in the park on the water’s edge. Mayor Frank Chillura and several council members urged Temple Terrace Preservation Society President Tim Lancaster, who is leading the effort to build a new bat tower, to meet with the Hines and others to discuss their concerns. Lancaster said he planned to meet with the residents in hopes of alleviating any misconceptions. “All these concerns have been vetted” by the Florida Bat Conservancy, Lancaster said. “Kids playing in the park during the day are not going to have any interaction with the bats,” Lancaster said. “They will be snoozing during the day and come out at dusk.” He considers Riverhills Park an ideal location for the bat tower. “We have to find the spot that’s most conducive to attracting bats,” Lancaster said. “We think this is a fair compromise for the tower. The original bat tower was built in 1924 on the banks of the river, nor far from present-day Florida College. It was erected by Temple Terrace developers to reduce the local mosquito population. The wood bat tower was a fixture in the city for more than 50 years. It was in the process of being moved and rehabilitated when an arsonist burned it to the ground. No one was arrested. The new structure will look similar to the original one. It will stand 40 feet tall and be 10 square feet wide at the base. The tower will have the capacity to house 650,000 bats but is likely to average from 100,000 to 200,000 bats at a time, Lancaster said.

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