Environment Day began appropriately with an overview of the Southwest Florida environment including the climate and the Everglades by Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resources Policy for the Conservancy of SWFL. This was followed by a deeper look into the Big Cypress Ecosystem and the Everglades from an Audubon point of view by Jason Lauritsen, Assistant Director, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
The day was enhanced by two wonderful venues–Rookery Bay and Naples Botanical Garden. The cast of speakers took the class through Florida rain, water runoff patterns, water management, local plants and animals, the population surges, population growth management, conservation, and the local systems for water and waste management. It sure did not hurt that the weather was typical “Florida Perfect!”
Then it was “on your feet!” for an informative tour of Rookery Bay to learn about the issues of coastal management, where the fresh water runoff meets the salty Gulf of Mexico. Gary Lytton, Director of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve addressed the issues of the beaches, bays and marine life. The class heard about the realities of living here in this paradise: water to drink, water for irrigation, and treatment of waste water from Michael Bauer, Natural Resources Manager, City of Naples and Justin Fredrickson, Deputy Director City of Naples Utility Office.
Our bus ride back to Naples Botanical Gardens peaked our appetite for a healthy, organic buffet lunch–No Burritos on Environment Day!! The lunch must have provided a dose of protein, because the group was energized to hear a policy level discussion. Mark Strain, Chair of the Collier County Planning Commission, and Andrew McElwain, President of the Conservancy of SW Florida, gave their views on the environmental implications of the Collier County Growth Management Plan.
Brian Holley, the Executive Director, Naples Botanical Garden, highlighted the development of the gardens to mirror the various components of our SWFL terrain. Of course, we did not take his word for it, we were on our feet again with their wonderful staff guides giving us a tour of the property.
Daniel Rodriguez, the Director of Collier County Solid Waste Management, give us a talk on Solid Waste Management and Recycling. (We had properly disposed of our lunch supplies.) It is amazing how much progress has been made in recycling residential and commercial trash, and also recycling construction and remodeling debris.
All presentations were done with marvelous computer graphics and videos. Everything takes electricity and Kathy Salvador, Project Development Manager for Florida Power & Light, gave us a complete perspective on power generation and distribution in Florida, focusing on their huge Solar Power projects, but also on other sources of power.
The day concluded in the Garden with a lovely social hour for the class, their guests and spouses, and our speakers. The view from the Kapnick Pier outside the auditorium was a perfect setting to conclude the day. We could see the bounty of the South Florida environment beyond the mangroves, the grasses and the pond.
The day was a success as noted by remarks from Class XVI and from our leader, Alex Anderson. The team members Van Williams, Bill Brock, Louise Friedlander and Joie Wilson were relieved when it was over and when King Alex applauded of our efforts.