Florida's First Coast Chapter had its first official meeting of the Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) sub-committee, and has pretty quickly built on partnership and established new ones to create a team-based approach. Chapter Chair, Paul Hayden, put in time up front to plant the seed of creating an OFG sub-committee and ask people to attend a meeting. At their first OFG meeting in Jacksonville, five people signed up for the OFG sub-committee and one person stepped forward to chair it.
The First Coast Chapter (FCC) reached out to and received a commitment from both the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) to be partners on projects. FCC has also identified at least two landscapers to work with them as advisors on these projects:
- Neptune Beach - the Ixia Chapter of CNPS is looking to remove a level one invasive species (asparagus fern) from the center of town. Once Ixia gets the go ahead from the city, FCC will join Ixia to start on a test site to see how the removal works and how the replacement species (native) works. FCC will be donating $500 to the Neptune Beach Beautification committee to help fund the materials, and will also offer labor and landscape design help.
- Sunrise Surf Shop (this spring) - The sub-committee will following the template for some of the OFG activities and will seek to meet the OFG sign criteria. This is a small project so it will help with training sub-committee memebers and is also a good visibility tool for the Chapter.
- Trident Surf Shop (this fall) - This shop in Ponte Vedra Beach will be a bigger site and project.
Paul is also exploring where there is common ground with Florida-Friendly Landscaping, a joint effort of the University of Florida-Extension Program, the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Southwest Florida Water Management District. Recognizing that there are Chapter members a ways south of Jax, Paul met with Bill Hamilton of Southern Horticulture in St. Augustine Beach, who is into native plants and is a strong proponent of OFG and Surfrider. The sub-committee, with Bill's help, will look to set up a seperate team to identify and do projects down there.
The Chapter has received a donation from Home Depot that they will use to build a supply of tools, signs, etc. In terms of sharing information, the Chapter will be adding an OFG section to their website, with links to the Surfrider-National OFG webpage. They will be doing a monthly blog with OFG tips gleaned from the National OFG blog, forum and webpage, as well as what is happening locally. Other chapters in the national network are submitting OFG information to post on water supply/quality agencies, e.g., San Diego Chapter's offering (posted in the OFG Activist Toolkit).
Just up the coast in North Carolina, Kathryn Sisler Waple, OFG Subcomittee Chair with the Cape Fear Chapter, has kicked-off OFG. When at UNCW, Kathryn led the Surfrider Group and was advised by Sean Ahlum, a current member of the Surfrider Foundation national Board of Directors. Kathryn is on the Board of Directors for her local food Coop (and is a manager at the Coop), and also was the project manager for the Castle Street Community Gardens project in Wilmington, NC.
After reading through the OFG Activist Toolkit, Kathryn developed a 2012 OFG plan. Along the lines of the old proverb about preparation meeting opportunity, Kathryn was contacted by the Stormwater Education Program Coordinator with the City of Wilmington's Stormwater Services to meet and discuss participating in a forthcoming effort in two watersheds to help improve water quality and restore the (closed) waters to shellfishing. If it works out, it would be a great fit for Surfrider because the watershed plan envisions working with homeowners/landowners to make improvements that would reduce the volume of rainwater runoff carrying pollution into local creeks. It was cool to find out that the Coordinator is a Surfrider member and already aware of the OFG Program!