Living in a Green City
By Vicki Jackson and Anne McKay Garris
One famous frog, Kermit, sings about green as "the color of spring…cool and friendly-like…like an ocean." In short, it's beautiful-likewise, our fair city.
Just this month Clearwater was given statewide certification as a Green City, for exceptional environmental stewardship regarding energy, water, air, land and waste. Also, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency selected Clearwater for two Brownfields assessment grants, toward cleaning and redeveloping contaminated and/or abandoned sites near downtown.
Clearwater's own Beach by Design places emphasis on environmental enhancements by encouraging the planting of shade trees, with ground cover at parking lots, and palm trees along sidewalks. The Community Development Code identifies specifics for new landscaping, including the use of native plants and preferred use of the city tree and flower. These are the live oak and hibiscus. The code references the Plant Guide of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). Their website, www.watermatters.org, has a wealth of information.
Most Clearwater residents now have access to reclaimed water, like it or not. But, some may not have heard about the free mulch from the county that's available around town. (Personally, I just can't get enough of that re-cycled mulch for my yard. It looks great, and the price is right!) Using it also helps save some of those acres of cypress from being clear-cut and vulnerable to invasive plant infiltration. Now, if only residential delivery of the mulch were made available in our area...
Environmentally, Clearwater is headed in the right direction. Clearwater spokesperson, Betty Clement, advises, "The City of Clearwater supports the county's watering restriction efforts and encourages all residents to comply with them. We've been fortunate that a wetter than normal season has helped relax the restrictions somewhat, but it still serves us well to continue being water wise to ensure the health of our city's environment. We recommend that Clearwater citizens check the city's green website, www.myclearwater.com/green where we maintain postings of current watering restrictions along with other useful green living information."
Responsible citizens can partner in conservation efforts. Although water restrictions were relaxed to Phase II this week, we're still in a four-year drought, and SWFWMD is urging us to "skip a week" with our winter irrigation--now being the perfect time to 'train' our grass. It's long been said that the most common reason for indoor plants dying, or failing to thrive, is over-watering. Outdoors, it's not so different:. Too much water will harm, not help, a lawn. Excessive watering can promote the growth of disease and pest populations, as well as nourish all that luscious dollarweed? Pesticides and herbicides for manging such problems continue to be subject to inquiry regarding the safety and environmental impact of their use and disposal.
If you're contemplating new plantings, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods has lots of suggestions. Their website, www.floridayards.org, will show you how to plan and plant a Florida-Friendly landscape following the FYN nine principles that result in "water conservation, reduction of polluted stormwater runoff, and protection of the natural environment." It's easy and fun! You may even discover some friendly natives!
Condominium residents haven't been left out, as the Pinellas County Extension offers specialized assistance on Florida-friendly landscaping to association board members and property managers. After a site evaluation, recommendations are made to the board. Appointments for this service may be scheduled with Landscaping Coordinator, Doris Heitzmann, at 727-582-2100/2422.
Ah! Living in Florida, I was amazed to discover that everything I had grown indoors up north, could be grown outdoors, here. While some of those exotics may be great in a potted plant, they can make trouble when given free range. We are blessed with a climate in which most anything can flourish--for good or for bad. So, just because it's for sale, or your neighbor offers it to you, doesn't make it a good choice. You can identify, and avoid planting, invasive species by checking the list provided by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, at www.fleppc.org .
Our Florida waterfront, together with sunny days and sugar sand, is the main attraction for most folk. It truly is a wonderful place to visit, but an even better one in which to live. When our family was looking for a new abode, we searched up and down the coast, but found nothing could compare to 'our' beach.
Certainly, the sea, sun and sand are special, but I especially appreciate our clean air. We are fortunate not to experience the pollution that causes those "orange" or "red" air-quality alerts, common to some cities. While plants and trees aren't the only ways to help the environment, they demand little, yet make such generous contributions day in and day out to our quality of life. Now, that's a beautiful thing.
In fact, I'm hoping some of Kermit's relatives will want to move into the frog house I just put in my courtyard--but, that's another story!
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