What Our Community Partners Say About Us
"The City of Tampa and those of us who get to work and eat at Ulele owe Tom Ries and his Ecosphere Restoration Institute a huge debt.
Even before the nationally recognized Ulele restaurant opened in a former city water pumping station in 2014, Ries was hard at work next door. He had the vision. He had the plan. And he had the will.
A natural, fresh-water spring next to the pumping station had provided the water for the city’s water supply from 1907 until the late 1920s, but had long since been bottled up and piped underground.
As part of the city’s new Water Works Park on the south side of the site, Ries helped restore the “boil” above-ground near Highland Avenue and flow the water 500 feet to the Hillsborough River. An aesthetically pleasing and equally practical expansion lagoon also became part of the project.
He coordinated at least three plantings of natural wetland vegetation as well as landscape plants.
In a spectacular turnaround, egrets, herons, turtles, fish – even manatees! – now make regular appearances in the spring.
Tom and his team – working closely with the city, the parks department and volunteers – have turned a stagnant eyesore into an urban oasis."
- Richard Gonzmart, Fourth Generation “Caretaker,” Columbia Restaurant Group
“The work done by Tom Ries and Ecosphere Restoration is just phenomenal – from their project at Ulele Spring to Wolf Branch Creek in southern Hillsborough County. I am so impressed by the care and quality of the restored areas and love seeing the natural beauty of Florida brought back.”
- Commissioner Stacy White, Hillsborough County Commission
"Tom (and Ecosphere) consistently goes the extra mile and literally donates hundreds of hours of his time towards improving our environment through habitat restoration.
Throughout his career, Tom has gained experience in creating funding options for projects, developing multi-agency cooperative agreements, and prioritizing projects based upon potential project effectiveness, ecological contribution, management priorities and resource limitations. Tom’s resume includes numerous large scale restoration projects in the Southwest Gulf Coast, completed under Tom’s leadership and collaboration with partners from the various federal and state agencies.
Ecosphere has extensive and long-standing working relationships; Tom's professionalism and ability to complete projects in an efficient and ecologically sound manner has earned him the respect of colleagues working in habitat restoration.
- Nicole Adimey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region
"I believe that Tom is the face and vision of wetland restoration in southwest Florida. Tom has led the identification, prioritization, design, and implementation of projects and initiatives that have restored thousands of acres of critical wetland habitat around Tampa Bay. Tom's extensive technical knowledge combined with his willingness to put in the extra hours to collaborate with other restoration practitioners, lend his expertise to a variety of partners, and engage and educate the local community has made Tom a true leader in the field of habitat restoration."
- Marti McGuire, Assistant Program Manager, NOAA Restoration Center, SE Region