In 2008, Land Management Coordinator Amy Gilboy Meide was selected as one of 40 individuals across the U.S. as a TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow. TogetherGreen is a Toyota-funded National Audubon Society program with a goal to build conservation leadership and achieve lasting conservation results. To learn more, visit www.togethergreen.org.
With the Fellowship came a monetary award of $10,000 to put towards a Conservation Action Project (CAP) of the Fellows choice. Amy’s project is a team effort with the Recreation and Parks Department and the County-owned St. Johns Golf Club, as well as local chapters of both Audubon and the Florida Native Plant Society to restore native habitat at the golf course. The kids from the First Tee, an international program for children that promotes character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf, not only helped with planting and mulching, but received environmental education concerning birds of the golf course and native plants.
So far, over an acre has been restored with native vegetation including beautyberry, bald cypress, St. John’s Wort, fetterbush and red maple. The ultimate goal is to restore approximately 25 acres of “no play” zones as money becomes available either through grants or donations. Several listed species like the eastern indigo snake and wood stork make their homes in and around the golf course. Fertilizer use and water consumption on the golf course will gradually decrease as well as greenhouse gases through less mowing by the use of native plants. View Gallery.
The natural dune system in St. Johns County is home to a variety of environmentally sensitive flora and fauna including the State threatened Least Terns that return yearly to nest at Porpoise Point. At the beginning of the 2007 beach season, the interdunal driving lanes radiating from Porpoise Point were barricaded with post and signage. However, enhancement of the dune system was still needed. Coincidentally, two coastal projects occurring within St. Johns County resulted in a donation of sand and 60,000 sea oats!
Sand was transported to Porpoise Point and Beach Services organized a volunteer effort to help plant sea oats on the freshly created dune features. Approximately 40 volunteers from various organizations donated their time to the planting effort. However, immediately following, a brutal Nor’easter came through the area submerging most of Porpoise Point and washing out some of the newly vegetated areas. Fortunately, many of the new areas remained after the waters subsided. Even so, more sea oats needed to be replaced and the following week, more volunteers turned out to complete the restoration project. View Gallery.
Most County wetland impacts result from road projects which do not allow for on-site mitigation. Mitigation banks serving our area lie outside of St. Johns County and often prove costly. St. Johns County has acquired a 760 acre parcel known as the Turnbull tract to serve as a regional offsite mitigation area for County projects. The site is adjacent to an existing 400 acre conservation easement which means approximately 1,200 acres of the headwaters of Six Mile Creek are being restored and protected as a result of mitigation activities. Water flow has been restored by removing forestry roads, filling or blocking ditches associated with these roads and adding low water crossings. The forests will be thinned and prescribed fire re-introduced to the site to mimic pre-silvicultural habitat. A 9.3 acre wetland creation area has been developed and is thriving with native plant species such as duck potato and pickerel weed. The Turnbull tract will provide for St. Johns County’s future mitigation needs within Basin 5 in a manner that makes both economical and ecological sense.