President’s 3 Hoots & a Holler: Welcome Back! Hope you’ve had a good summer.

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
September 2012

Audubon Community Center to train volunteers to help maintain county conservation lands is now finally becoming a reality!  On July 10th, the county commission voted 3-2 to approve our site plan (Peter O’Bryan and Wesley Davis descending).  On July 27th, thanks to board member and corresponding secretary Peter Sutherland, making final document arrangements, PIAS purchased one acre of land off of Oslo Road from the University of Florida Foundation for the Center which is surrounded by 440 acres of one of the county’s best environmental lands (Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area with seven different habitats) on its south, west and north boundary and the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida on its east boundary.   We thank Patrick Walther, P.E., Ben Seed, Carter & Associates, Inc. for their pro bono surveying and engineering work for the site plan approval andleadership in this effort and also for project coordination: Jimmy Sellers and Michael Walther, Coastal Technology Corp.; Geotechnical work: Dave Alker, Geotechnical Consultant, AM Engineering & Testing, Inc.; Design: Richard Bialosky, AIA, Amy J. Thoma, LEED AP, Tierra Verde, Inc., Jeff Ray, AIA, and Chris Crawford, AIA; Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineering: Kim Stephenson, EIT, Formica & Associates, Inc.; Structural Engineering: Bill Stoddard, PhD, P.E. Schulke, Bittle & Stoddard, LLC.; Landscape Design, Robin Pelensky, Landscape Architect, Surlaterre; and Legal: George Glenn, Attorney.  We have also settled on a general contractor: Phil Barth and Jason Fykes, Barth Construction.  We hope to complete the project in 9 months.  I also appreciate the good work of our building committee (Bob Bruce, Bill Halliday, Peter Sutherland, and John Orcutt). For more details see our website.

School Gardening Project: Thanks again to Peter Sutherland, who provided the idea and Board members Dr. Bill Loftus and Dr. Graham Cox who helped write the grant and will help coordinate carrying out the project.  PIAS received a $9,890 Toyota Grant to introduce small-scale, square-foot gardening to students of Indian River County to provide them with a hands-on demonstration of the multiple benefits of home gardens. Students will learn many skills growing their own healthy vegetables outdoors in ways that saves water, avoids excessive fertilizer, and illustrates the benefits of a healthy diet. Students will learn that home gardening saves energy by decreasing food-transportation costs, and uses land — their back yards — more productively and efficiently. They will also see that, compared to monoculture lawns, vegetable gardens create plant diversity and, by absorbing carbon dioxide and creating more oxygen, help reduce global warming. The project will offer the program to all 29 schools in the Indian River County system and will also work with African-American and Latino communities already committed to community-garden projects. The ultimate goal is to distribute 40, 4’ x 4’ garden boxes and kit materials (soil, seeds, training booklets, etc.) to 40 classrooms. 

Bonnie Swanson, Principle of Vero Beach Elementary School, was quoted in Vero Beach 32963 “We have many hungry children in Indian River County. It seems strange with all the wealth here, but we have kids who go home to no electricity, no food, and no water.  We are hoping children and parents learn they can sustain themselves by growing their own food, even if they live in an apartment.  The Audubon Society is wonderful.  We are very excited to have this program at our school.”  Martha McAdams, Ph.D. Principal at Sebastian Charter Junior High, wrote, “I am thrilled our school is going to be a part of the square foot gardening project.  Cathy Tinder, the teacher who will be involved, has many ideas on how to integrate the project across the curriculum, including math, nutrition/health, writing and science.  Our Ecology Club will be the main students involved.  There will be approximately 20-30 students who will be directly working with the garden, however, all 186 students in grades 6-8 will have some involvement with observations and predictions, measuring and maintenance.  I believe the students will be highly motivated to learn more about plants and how they can get such bountiful crops from such a small amount of space.  We hope to inspire our students to take the concept home and use their knowledge to have a square foot garden at their home or maybe with a group of friends.”

Huge disaster: Seagrasses and game fish are all gone around Sebastian area (from Grant in Brevard County to the 17th Street Bridge in Vero Beach)!  “This is a crisis,” says Dr. Grant Gilmore.  Grant and fishing guide, Captain Paul Dritenbas, have surveyed the above area and have found nothing but bare sand. The area includes the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. They speculate that some toxin has killed the seagrasses including the rhizomes (root-like underground stems).  Besides fish and many creatures in the food chain, seagrasses are essential for our manatees. Our dolphins depend on fish to eat.  Fishermen are now following the fish down to Ft. Pierce where we have seagrasses.  The seagrasses at the Oslo Road boat ramp appear to be not killed yet, and really provide the only nursery habitat for our game fish in Indian River County.  Hopefully, now the county will stop pressuring the dredge and fill project there that will kill off that source of fish for our county.  This also should spur on our city’s council members and county commissioners to produce a strong fertilizer ordinance that so far neither our cities nor our county has done.  Dr. Gilmore was quoted in Vero Beach 32963:  “It’s time for the government to come together with the scientists and work to solve this problem and restore the lagoon.”

These three hoots and a holler demonstrate why Audubon is essential to enhance our quality of life for our community…and how we can use your help! Darlene Halliday is our new volunteer coordinator.  

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