Vote on FNPS Chapter Achievement Award - Pinellas Chapter

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Karina

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on: April 12, 2009, 10:11:50 PM

PALMETTO AWARD APPLICATION
PINELLAS CHAPTER

   In applying for a Palmetto Award for our chapter we hereby submit the following information:

   Educational Outreach: Our chapter has for five years had the strongest educational outreach program of any environmental group in the Tampa Bay area. PowerPoint presentations of our series entitled “In Harmony with Nature” which is comprised of “The Healthy Landscape” and “Landscaping and Gardening with Florida Native Plants” developed in partnership with St. Petersburg Audubon Society have been presented to thousands of people at major environmental events, neighborhood association meetings, garden clubs, various civic groups as well as state conferences of Audubon of Florida and FNPS. Designed to make people aware of environmentally friendly approaches to home property management and the proper use of Florida native plants in the landscape, it has also been a strong vehicle for putting our chapter name and mission out into community awareness. We created a narrated CD version of the programs and managed to sell it state wide with the help of a favorable article in Audubon’s state publication “The Naturalist.” The “Landscaping and Gardening with Florida Native Plants” PPT was given a post production grant from FNPS, copied, and distributed to every FNPS chapter statewide by former educational chair Marty Main.
   We exhibit at every major environmental event in the region with a first class display supported by voluminous amounts of free literature given to the public. Some of these events have been very well attended e.g. the annual Pinellas Living Green Expo (approx. 5,000 people) and the Tropicana Field Home Show (approx. 30,000 people).

   Partnerships: We are a vital part of a countywide environmental coalition, “Alliance for a Livable Pinellas” or ALP, which meets monthly to share news and issues, and to coordinate advocacy strategies when appropriate. ALP has been meeting monthly with the chief administrative/environmental  officer of the city of  St. Petersburg in an attempt to assist the city in advancing from silver to gold status in the Green Cities program. A result of these meetings is a  radically revised city tree ordinance which is much more protective of the tree canopy and of native trees than the prior ordinance. Our chapter played an important role in this development along with a well known local arborist.
       We partnered with Heritage Village, a county historical preservation site, in the development of signage for the Shirley McPherson Trail, a native plant ethnobotanical interpretive trail, developing the plant description content and donating $3500 to the project. We are also currently doing a signage project on native plants for Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater.
   Every December ongoing for many years we have joined with St. Petersburg Audubon Society for a Conservation Celebration where we both give our annual awards, have a silent auction fundraiser, and a top-notch speaker of a least state-wide repute. The topic is about the beauty  and fragility of Florida’s ecosystems and the necessity for preserving them. It’s an inspiring event attended by approximately 200 people.

   Conservation: We have partnered with the city of St. Petersburg in the restoration of Little Bayou Park and an important Indian mound at Pinellas Point. We joined with SWFWMD in removing invasive exotic plant species and planting at Clam Bayou. One of our members has arranged a transfer of county property to the city of Clearwater and created a neighborhood demonstration “pocket park” supporting butterflies and birds with native plants. We have also been a participant in the ongoing planting and maintenance of an extensive demonstration garden of native coastal species at the USF marine sciences educational site at Clam Bayou.
   
   An interesting conservation event is now happening through a partnership with Miami artist Xavier Cortada. He has designed an eco-art  project whereby 1 gallon native trees of six species are being given away free with a signed agreement to plant, display a green flag beside the tree with the phrase “This land is hereby reclaimed for nature,” and to upload a photo of the planting to the project website. This is being funded by a grant from the Pinellas County Public Arts Council. Our chapter has agreed to acquire and give away 750 of these trees this year in an attempt to restore native tree canopy. One local school, Shore Crest Preparatory School, originally contacted by Mr. Cortada is taking 240 trees and we plan to distribute many at several spring exhibiting events.
   
   Scholarships and Awarded Grants: For several years running our chapter has donated on average $2000 a year in scholarships for various city and county environmental summer camp programs for youth. We received feedback from the program manager of Moccasin Lake Nature Park that in one family’s case, the sponsorship of the child allowed the single mother to get a job to support her family. We provided an assistance grant of $100 to long time member John Beckner for his effort to digitally scan the historically significant and fragile journals of  James MacFarland, a Florida botanist of the 1920s. Last year we gave a grant of $250 for the Tracy McCommon “Gardening for Native Pollinators” TV production which will potentially reach millions of Floridians. We sponsored the 2008 FNPS conference with a donation of $500.

   Grants Received: We received a $1,907 grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to print give-away literature folders for our “In Harmony with Nature” series. The chapter received a $1,000 grant from Progress Energy to help restore the St. Petersburg city park at Little Bayou. A grant of $7500 from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program was obtained for the planting of the pocket park known as Rainbow at Mars in Clearwater.

   Plant Sales: Our chapter holds two major plant sales each year, spring and fall. Not only do they provide significant income for the chapter but also a wonderful educational and membership opportunity. Our recent sale garnered 22 new memberships and provided the host, Wilcox Nursery, a record breaking sales day. At our monthly membership meetings we have a silent auction of plants donated by members which provides u with a modest income stream.
   
   Newsletter and Membership Communication: We have had one of the best newsletters in the state and one of the first to go digital. The transition was smooth and accepted by the membership and has substantially reduced our per issue cost. Our email communication out to the membership is outstanding with a regular feature entitled “News from the Pinellas FNPS” which details activities, advocacy issues, and volunteer opportunities.

   Landscape Tour: In 2007 we re-established an annual native plant yard tour for the public. The event sparked the involvement of new volunteers within the chapter. The tour was well attended and highly praised as a direct learning experience. In 2008 the tour was expanded to two weekend days, one for south county and one for north and west county, with a very gratifying turnout. This time we charged a small fee and covered our expenses.

   Advocacy:  In the past several years the level of advocacy of our chapter has increased significantly because of development threats within our preserves and parks sponsored by the county administration. In concert with other local environmental groups we put a halt to some dangerous trends developing with county management policies. Several chapter members also provided input on master planning meetings for some of our parks and preserves.
   As a way of saving our coastal forests in Louisiana and Florida we have signed on to two letters sponsored by the Gulf Restoration Network requesting Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to cease selling cypress mulch.
   We are currently engaged with other local environmental groups, notably the Sierra Club and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, in supporting a new fertilizer ordinance for the Tampa Bay region which will drastically reduce the nitrogen and phosphorous loading of local waters. This should bring substantial improvement to our aquatic habitats.
   We are presently consulting with the city of St. Petersburg to assist city staff in reducing the amount of St. Augustine grass in city parks offering our knowledge of appropriate native ground covers as substitutes. When this comes to fruition it should save the city considerable maintenance expenses and decrease the amount of fertilizers and pesticides contributing to polluted stormwater runoff. Twenty five potential trial sites have been selected.
   
 
   Other Projects/Activities:  Several of our chapter members for the past two years have been creating a book on shade gardening with native plants, hopefully to be published within the next year. One member created three large notebooks of native plant pictures and descriptions as a reference for use at our plant sales. We were a co-host to the very successful 2008 FNPS Conference.
Karina Veaudry