After disaster, we keep moving on

My grandmother’s favorite saying was: “Life is an adventure, enjoy the surprises and keep going”.  Well that certainly rang true for the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resource Department’s National Estuaries Week (NEW) program, Rendezvous at Robinson Expansion. In conjunction with our partners Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, RAE, and CITGO Petroleum, our event celebrated the estuary in a weeklong program bonanza, with two educational programs and two volunteer activities. It was a wonderful week with devoted volunteers and learners of all ages excited to discover our local estuaries, however it was a rocky, or shall I say soggy, road to the events.

Manatee County is in central Florida, just south of Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Irma made landfall on the evening of September 10, one week prior to our first NEW program. Manatee County was in the direct path.  After the debris was cleared and the roads made accessible, the nursery that housed our plants lost a greenhouse and some plants. However, other than fallen trees, there was no major damage to our sites. So we adapted, and the nursery supplied us with smaller buttonwood trees. In the end, the Natural Resource Department continued with all planned programs on the planned dates.

Two educational programs occurred: A naturalist led wagon ride through Robinson Preserves and an Estuary Game Night at Emerson Point Preserve. Both events were well attended with enthusiastic participants all excited to learn about the local estuaries. The families had so much fun that the game night became a regular monthly program.

There were two volunteer work days planned. The first day 32 volunteers removed and divided 2,000 grasses at Perico Preserve. On the following day, 45 volunteers replanted all the grasses plus 100 buttonwood trees in Robinson Preserve Expansion, the newest Manatee County preserve space. Our amazing volunteers and incredible partners, though still getting their lives together from a disaster, made each day a roaring success. Manatee County and our partners are looking forward to more National Estuaries Weeks, hopefully less exciting.   

Coral Bass is education and volunteer specialist with the Manatee County Government in Florida.