District Celebrates a Decade of Community Education Grants

Fox 13's Bill Murphy at Nature Coast Botanical Gardens

Don Kubiak, director of the botanical gardens, and Dick Keller, co-director, share a laugh with Fox 13’s Bill Murphy during the taping of a One Tank Trips segment featuring the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens.

The District is celebrating an educational milestone with the 10th anniversary of the Community Education Grant Program, a program that motivates adults to get involved in projects that promote water resources protection.

The grants are used for projects that provide adults with an opportunity to learn about water-related issues pertaining to conservation, protection and preservation. Projects that received up to $5,000 grants from the District’s Basin Boards include Florida-friendly landscape demonstration gardens, educational signage, water quality testing, water-wise workshops, watershed festivals, stormdrain marking programs and more.

“Over the past nine years, the District has budgeted more than $1 million to fund hundreds of grants,” said Virginia Sternberger, Community Education Grant coordinator. “Thousands of volunteers have participated in projects that teach participants how to take better care of their local water resources and encourage community involvement. Everyone benefits — the environment and the residents.”

The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens in Spring Hill is one community group that applied for and received four Community Education Grants over time. The botanical gardens feature 17 gardens designed and planted by the Spring Hill Garden Club on 3.5 acres of scrubland. All but one of the gardens are Florida-friendly gardens that demonstrate the nine principles of Florida-friendly landscaping, which saves time, water and money for the gardener, in addition to helping to preserve Florida’s natural resources.

“Securing funding through the District’s Community Education Grant Program has really helped the botanical gardens grow,” said Don Kubiak, director of the botanical gardens. “Without these funds, the completion of these educational gardens would never have been realized. Hundreds of Hernando County residents and visitors from neighboring counties have learned to use water-wise landscaping.”

In addition to being a focal point for the community, the botanical gardens also captured the attention of Fox 13’s Bill Murphy for his One Tank Trips series. Murphy features interesting locations during television segments and in his accompanying books, which are available in area bookstores and libraries.

“I’m proud to see this successful Community Education Grant project featured as one of Bill Murphy’s One Tank Trips,” said Sternberger. “Both the Hernando County Tourism Bureau and the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens received many inquiries after the show. Hopefully these people will visit the gardens and learn more about Florida-friendly landscaping and its benefits to the environment.”