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February 21, 2007

Eight Polk County projects were awarded Community Education Grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The grants, which are up to $5,000 each, will help fund projects that provide communities the opportunity to learn about water resources.

This year the District awarded 49 grants Districtwide for a total of $171,444. This is the 10th year Community Education Grants have been available.

The overall goal of the Community Education Grant Program is to actively engage adults in water-related issues pertaining to conservation, protection and preservation. Funded by the District’s Basin Boards, the program is intended to motivate communities to get involved in water protection through various activities and educational formats.

The following three projects are funded by the Peace River Basin Board, which includes portions of Charlotte, Hardee, DeSoto, Highlands, and Polk counties.

The City of Winter Haven will receive $4,000 for the “Be a Better Boater Chain of Lakes City” campaign, which will provide recreational users of local lakes with information about the area lakes and what they can do to help keep them clean. The information packet will contain maps of the lakes and canal systems and will list area amenities. It will also contain an educational section encouraging responsible boating. Signs will be posted at four popular boat launches to remind boaters of things they can do to protect water resources. The project will reach 15,000 people.

Keep Winter Haven Clean & Beautiful will receive $4,897 for a pet waste station and bag replacement project. Pet waste stations and disposal bags will be placed in six parks throughout the city. These parks are adjacent to lakes, ponds and/or ditches. The stations will educate pet owners on the importance of picking up after their pets in an effort to reduce contamination from pet waste entering area lakes through stormwater runoff. This project will reach 10,000 people.

Haines City will receive $2,000 for the “Water and Me” workshop. This project will show Haines City-area residents that failing to conserve water affects everyone, including local plants and animals. Through classes at retirement communities and appearing at the local Heritage Day event, participants will learn about low-flow irrigation and other Florida-friendly landscaping techniques. Grant funds will be used to purchase faucet aerators, shower timers, drip counters, hot water gauges and water hose nozzles for participants. Approximately 2,000 people will be reached through this project.

Funding for the following four projects comes from the Alafia River Basin Board, the Hillsborough River Basin Board and the Peace River Basin Board. The Alafia River Basin Board includes the southern half of Hillsborough County and the southwestern portion of Polk County. The Hillsborough River Basin includes portions of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

The Lakes Education/Action Drive will receive $5,000 for the Lakeshore Resident’s Guide, which will inform Polk County lakeshore homeowners about how water quality is affected by stormwater runoff, yard debris disposal and fertilizer and pesticide application. The goal is for lakeshore homeowners to learn to change negative habits and help protect and preserve area water resources. In addition, a tabletop display will be created featuring information on local water issues. The project will reach approximately 6,000 lakeshore residents.

Polk County Utilities will receive $2,000 for a Water Conservation Public Education Project. Attendees to Earth Day, Public Works Week and town hall meetings in Polk County will learn about water conservation by receiving water conservation assistance items, reminders and literature. The items will be given to participants who play a water conservation question-and-answer game. Grant funds will be used for
participant prizes, including rain gauges, low-flow faucet aerators, imprinted umbrellas, imprinted toothbrushes, hose nozzles and other items. This project will reach approximately 3,764 participants.

The Polk County Board of County Commissioners will receive $2,715 for “Water, Wings and Wild Things: Polk Naturefest 2007.” The annual nature celebration in Polk County provides an age-diverse audience with the opportunity to learn about local natural resources and nature-based recreation. The goal of the event is to educate citizens about natural resources, including water resources, with the intent on changing behavior. Grant funds would be used for rental of tables, chairs, portable toilets and hand-washing stations; site security; wildlife presentations; and event fliers. Expected attendance is 2,000.

The Florida Onsite Wastewater Association will receive $3,500 for Operation Onsite Toolbox. The association plans to reach 500 people with information on maintenance and management of their onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS or septic system) through seminars at local health departments, booths at local Earth Day celebrations and distribution of informational pamphlets. The goal of the project is to enhance public awareness of their individual impact on Floridas waters regarding their OWTS.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s 2008 Community Education Grant Program will begin its application process in June of this year if funding is approved by the Basin Boards. To be added to the mailing list to receive the 2007 application, call the District’s Communications Department at 1-800-423-1476 or 352-796-7211, ext. 4757.


 
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