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25 groups aim to improve Tampa Bay

They will use minigrants to clean up parks and water.

Published January 10, 2007


Neighborhood associations, MacDill Air Force Base and schools are among 25 organizations that have been awarded grants for projects designed to help restore and improve Tampa Bay.

Altogether, the organizations, in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties, will receive $160,000 for projects that include planting native plants, monitoring migratory birds, cleaning up Bayboro Harbor and reducing litter in Fort De Soto Park.

Money for the work will come from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which has been awarding minigrants to community organizations since 1993. Since 2000, the money has come from sales of the Tampa Bay Estuary specialty license plate, popularly known as the "tarpon tag."

This year the grant program received 52 applications, a record, said project manager Misty Cladas. Twenty-five were recommended for full or partial funding by the Estuary Program's Community Advisory Committee.

Lake Seminole will benefit from the grant program, which is giving the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management $10,000.

It is one of the larger grants awarded for restoration projects on public property. The project will involve planting native aquatic vegetation and upland plants, including water lilies, sand cord grass, live oak trees and duck potato.

The project will continue work that has already begun, said Kelli Hammer Levy, environmental program coordinator for the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management. Shorelines were cleared of invasive plants last year, she said, "so, in the spring, the area will be ready for planting."

Tampa Bay is the state's largest open-water estuary. It spans 398 square miles at high tide and is home to more than 200 species of fish, according to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Web site: The site also states that more than 4-billion gallons of oil, fertilizer components and other hazardous materials pass through Tampa Bay each year. The object of the minigrant program, it says, is to mobilize as many segments of the public as possible to help restore and save the waterway.

Among the schools receiving grants this year are Southside Fundamental Middle School and the Canterbury School of Florida. Southside plans to create an outdoor classroom to teach about stormwater runoff and its effects on the environment. It also will create an area to showcase native plants and proper drainage techniques.

Canterbury received $6,575.61 for work on its upper campus in northeast St. Petersburg. "We are going to do a native species garden here on our campus," said Dan Otis, director of marine science. "We call it a habitat restoration, and we're going to take away sod and put in vegetation native to Florida that's drought-resistant. And, in addition, we're also putting marsh grass along the creek that's behind the main building. ... I want to create an outdoor classroom here, and we will label the plants so that students can learn the names."

Otis said all students are encouraged to participate, but the school's Earth Force group, mainly middle school students, will definitely work on the project. Work has already begun, he said.

Also in St. Petersburg, the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association will strive to create a healthier and more biodiverse lake. The association will remove trash and invasive plants, grow native plants and install storm drain markers and educational signs. The neighborhood association was awarded $6,689.36 for the project.

The estuary program is a partnership of county and city governments in the three counties, state Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


[Last modified January 9, 2007, 20:45:05]

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