The District celebrated the Peace River and the Peace River watershed by holding a series of events along the river during “Peace River Watershed Awareness Week” in April.
The week was recognized by the District’s Peace River Basin Board, the state legislature and participating county governments.
Each of the four events within the Peace River watershed was designed to create watershed awareness, showcase the commitment to protecting the watershed and foster proper stewardship of the watershed. During these events, a canoe paddle was passed to local county commissioners to symbolize how each area is interconnected as part of the watershed. Participants at each location also had the opportunity to sign the watershed pledge banner and view an interactive map.
In addition to the awareness created by the public events, several positive stories about the week were published in newspapers throughout the watershed.
The “Spanning the Peace River Watershed” events kicked off in Bartow at Polk County’s Water, Wings & Wild Things celebration. Visitors of all ages enjoyed environmental exhibits and participated in interactive activities.
A highlight of the day was the District-sponsored watershed tent, which featured a variety of exhibitors and allowed visitors to experience education activities related to protection of their watershed.
“The Polk County event also engaged participants in fun, nature-based activities such as tree climbing, building birdhouses, walking through a butterfly tent and experiencing a hands-on wildlife safari,” said Kendra Antoine, senior communications coordinator who focuses on watershed education.
The next stop along the Peace River was at Paynes Creek Historic State Park in Bowling Green where fourth- and fifth-grade students from all five Hardee County elementary schools learned about the Peace River watershed through a variety of activities, including a canoe trip on the river, hiking, storytelling and other environmental educational activities focusing on the Peace River.
“The events were a tremendous success and a lot of fun, especially for the kids,” said Raina O’Neil, senior communications coordinator, who served as a group leader during the event. “So often today kids are not exposed to the natural environment. This was a great opportunity to not only highlight the beauty of the Peace River, but for kids to connect with nature.”
Fourth-grade students from Nocatee Elementary School also learned about the Peace River watershed when the paddle came to DeSoto and Morgan parks in Arcadia.
Melissa Roe, senior communications coordinator, said the group of students she led enjoyed all of the activities.
“There was one boy who was physically challenged and had a hard time walking long distances. Because the activities were close enough together, he was able to keep up with everyone. At the end of the day, he was still charged up. The teacher mentioned to me that she had been prepared to stop and rest with him, but he had more energy than all of us put together!”
The “Spanning the Peace River Watershed” events wrapped up at the Punta Gorda Block Party in downtown Punta Gorda where visitors of all ages enjoyed environmental exhibits and participated in interactive activities. The District coordinated with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program to help residents understand that they can make a difference in their watershed.
“At the end of Peace River Watershed Awareness Week, a visitor to our booth said, ’Thank you for being here. This is important.’ That’s when I knew our efforts were having a positive impact,” said Beth Putnam, District communications manager.