Orlando launches “Only Rain Down the Drain.”

Mayor Buddy Dyer joins Clary Powell and students from Lake Eola Charter School at Lake Eola Park to launch a new storm water initiative. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO – On a very blustery day, Clary Powell wasn’t particularly concerned about either the strong winds or the cool temperatures. Standing before a group of middle school students, she seemed more interested in rain.
That was the case, despite the fact that there was no rain coming down, and not a cloud in the sky.
“The problem we face,” Powell told the students, “is whenever it rains in Orlando, this is something we need to be aware of.”
Powell made her comments at Lake Eola Park, right next to the Disney Amphitheater, and that location was chosen for a reason: close proximity to Lake Eola itself. As Powell noted, rain may have a lot of benefits for the plants growing all around us, but it can pose a challenge for the lakes that area residents have come to appreciate.
“Do you know we have around 100 lakes in Orlando,” she asked the students, who came from the nearby Lake Eola Charter School, on a mission to help prevent pollution from flowing into those lakes — Eola included.
“That’s a lot of lakes for us to enjoy,” she said, “but that’s also a lot of lakes to take care of.”
And the big problem, she added, is that when it rains in the city, it washes items out of people’s lawns and driveways into the streets – and then into storm drains. That sends the waste right into Orlando’s lakes.
“Our storm drains have no filtration systems,” said Powell, who is the public awareness specialist for the City of Orlando’s Public Works Department.
Storm drains, she noted, are the number one source for pollution in local lakes, because household chemicals, paints, leaves, fertilizers and pesticides are carried by stormwater into storm drains that flow directly into those lakes.

Clary Powell, public awareness specialist for the City of Orlando Public Works Department, shows off the new ”Only Rain Down the Drain.” (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Those hazardous pollutants and waste can damage the water quality and kill or sicken fish and wildlife, and potentially limit recreational opportunities in the lakes, Powell noted.
That’s why the Public Works Department has launched a new public awareness campaign, marking storm drains with “No Dumping” signage as a visual reminder that storm drains are for stormwater only.
This afternoon, Powell and the Lake Eola Charter School students joined Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan on this marking project. Working as a group, the students and city officials set out to post new “Only Rain Down the Drain” stickers by storm drains that feed directly into Lake Eola.
“Volunteers are what makes this program possible,” Powell said.
It’s also a great way to teach kids about the environment, the mayor said.
“That was a pretty good science lesson, wasn’t it?” Dyer asked the students. “What do you think is the number one pollutant that goes into our drain system?”
Several students guessed correctly – household waste. What the city doesn’t need, Dyer said, is for that waste to end up in sparkling lakes like Lake Eola.
“We have beautiful lakes all over Orlando,” he said. Continue reading

Bears seen trashing around in Poinciana.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says bears usually come onto someone’s property if they believe there’s food available — including in trash cans.

POINCIANA – In a growing community like Poinciana, the sheriff’s office may have to deal with a variety of matters, from car accidents to home break-ins.
What happens less often, said Donna Wood, is what occurred on Sunday, Oct. 7, when Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies got two calls about something rather unique: black bear sightings.
There was at least one black bear, described as being around 250 pounds, seen rummaging through garbage cans in areas that included Redwing Court, Starling Court, Spoonbill Court, and Sheldrake Road in the southwestern part of Poinciana.
The community of 10 villages is divided between Polk and Osceola counties. In the southwest part, there’s wilderness areas nearby.
Wood, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said there’s actually a lot more rural sections to this large county, hospitable to wildlife, than many city residents assume. Continue reading

Upcoming Wildflower Symposium hopes to educate about Florida’s native plants.

Lake County’s upcoming Florida Wildflower Symposium aims to put a spotlight on the region’s natural beauty. (Photo by Steve Schwartz.)

TAVARES – When people move from other states to Central Florida, they often want their garden to look just like the one they had up north.
What they don’t always understand, Lisa Roberts said, is that the soil in Central Florida really has its own unique ways and methods – and not all plants that grow so beautifully up north can adapt here.
“That’s very true,” she said. “People come from different areas and they want to grow what they’re used to.”
When their plants simply won’t survive down here, they want to know what they’re doing wrong – and that’s where Roberts comes in.
“We try to introduce them to the Florida species that are really well adapted to the Florida landscapes,” she said.
Roberts is the executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation, which is hosting the upcoming inaugural Wings and Wildflowers Festival, as part of the foundation’s Florida Wildflower Symposium. The festival will be held Sept. 28-30, with numerous events scheduled for the first two days at various sites throughout Lake County.
The symposium is also going to feature educational workshops on subjects that include Nature & Wildflower Photography, Start Gardening with Wildflowers, Bee Walks, Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants and the Florida Wildflower Travelogue.
And what more ideal environment to do it, Roberts said, than in picturesque Lake County.
“In Lake County, it’s really easy,” she said. “There are a lot of great venues to visit. There is a lot of interest within Lake County and Central Florida about adding native plants to landscapes, because they are adapted to our environment, adapted to our pests, and they are more sustainable. A lot of people are putting native plants in their landscapes now.”
As Lake County’s inaugural birding and wildflower celebration, the weekend-long festival will offer more than 100 scheduled events and activities, many in the great outdoors — everything from wildlife photography hikes and guided kayak trips to bird watching expeditions and expert speakers.
James Currie, host of the adventure birding television show Nikon’s Birding Adventures on NBC Sports, will be the festival’s keynote speaker.
“I think the objective of Lake County’s celebration is to show off its natural lands, which feature just an amazing variety of birds and wildflowers,” Robert said. “The two go together. We’ll be taking people out to natural areas and showing them how to start a mini-menu with seeds, and why it’s important to support our native bees. We have hundreds of species of bees in Florida, and they are struggling to survive, and they are responsible for pollinating 30 percent of our crop. So if you like strawberries, thank a wildflower.”
As part of the festival, a special Wildflower Wingding barbeque will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 6-8 p.m. at Hickory Point Park at 27341 State Road 19 in Tavares. The barbeque will feature live entertainment provided by the bluegrass band Molly and Her Music Makers. Tickets are $15, with proceeds benefiting wildflower research, planting and education.
“It’s a great facility,” Roberts said of Hickory Point Park. “It has indoor screen pavilions where we will be conducting classes throughout the day, and at the end of the day we’ll have our barbeque and everyone is invited to attend, have a great time and enjoy some music.”
If they also come to appreciate the region’s landscape, so much the better, Roberts added.
“The symposium will provide exciting events for wildflower-lovers and help educate participants on the importance of preserving wildflowers at the same time,” she said. “We’ll have a workshop on putting together a rain barrel, and we’ll be talking about sustainability. We have to stop using so much water, and we will be introducing ways to save water in their landscaping.”
Many of the festival’s events are free. FWF members get discounts on admission to Symposium activities and some of the Wings and Wildflowers Festival events. To learn more, log on to www.lakecountyfl.Com/GoWild, or call the Florida Wildflower Foundation at 407-353-6164 or visit www.flawildflowers.org.

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