A Five-year Success Story Behind South Florida’s Landscaper Program
By Kathalyn Gaither
Florida’s green spaces, which include parks, greenways, medians, gardens, yards and other green areas play many important roles in Florida’s communities. They help protect water quality and reduce erosion, runoff and leaching of contaminants, as well as provide wildlife habitat and recreational, aesthetic and psychological benefits.
To keep these spaces as green as possible, DEP’s Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas is teaching professional landscapers safe and effective ways to maintain urban green spaces across Florida. Working with partners in the community, DEP’s staff teach landscapers Green Industries Best Management Practices. To date, the program has 250 instructors statewide who have delivered 577 classes, resulting in the training of 15,800 individuals.
The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Coastal Training Program started a landscape education program called Project Greenscape in October 2006 to protect the many green spaces in south Florida. The south region includes 16 counties: Dade, Broward, Monroe, Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Henry, Glades, Manatee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hardee, Desoto, Highlands and Palm Beach.
Since 2006, 107 instructors have conducted 289 classes and provided training to 8,968 individuals – 56 percent of the total statewide trainings. In May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Florida is one of the top five states with the highest employment level in the landscaping occupation, and that the Naples-Marco Island metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations of jobs and location quotients in this occupation.
The reserve is using partnerships and innovative thinking to reach even more of their region’s landscapers. In 2008, the reserve created a green industries instructor program and training manual by working with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to include extension instructors in the program. Since a large percentage of the landscapers in south Florida speak Spanish, in 2007, the reserve translated the program to Spanish to help more than 2,000 additional individuals receive the benefits of this program.
In addition to joining with the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program advisory committee, Project Greenscape created the Greenscape Alliance. This local partnership has a mission of raising community awareness of Florida-friendly landscaping principles and practices in a unified voice. The alliance has produced a local landscaping resource guide, provided logistic assistance to homeowners’ associations and other local stakeholders, and also published a series of articles about Florida-friendly landscaping and the green industries best management practices program in the local news.
Funding for this program comes from the National Estuarine Reserve Reserve operations grant provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state grants provided by Section 319 from the Environmental Protection Agency through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Collier County and the city of Naples.
|If you would like to reprint or republish this content, please email us a quick note at DEPnews@dep.state.fl.us and let us know where this content will be placed.|