The Spring Hill Garden Club: Growing an Environmentally Healthy Community
The Spring Hill Garden Club of Hernando County, Florida is an example of how retired citizens are working together and working with government, to make their community a beautiful, environmentally sound and healthy place to live. This is also the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Aging Initiative created to protect the health of older adults from environmental hazards.
With support from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the active garden club has plans to construct 12 to 15 gardens on a 3.5-acre site known as the Hernando County Botanical Gardens, located in Spring Hill, Florida.
Ed Howells, a retired dry cleaner, is the group's project manager. He's been a driving force since 2001, leading the club to complete several projects. Howells and the group of volunteers completed their first garden in June 2002. Since then the group has designed and started planting six more gardens. Like Ed, many of the volunteers are retired citizens with a lot to give. "Older citizens are brimming over with good ideas and tried and true solutions. They have the time to give and are often motivated by the idea of leaving a legacy...making a difference for the future," said Sylvia Durell, a communications coordinator for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The District helped fund two garden club projects through its Community Education Grant Program. The goal of the program, which is in its seventh year, is to actively engage adults, many of whom are older, in water-related issues pertaining to conversation, protection and preservation. The District funds projects that provide communities the opportunity to learn about water resources through educational formats and hands-on activities such as landscaping techniques and cleanups of ponds, rivers and wetlands.
One of the projects funded by the District was the club's Ornamental
(Xeriscape) Grass Garden. In 2003, the Spring Hill Garden Club received
$3,936 for the project.
Volunteers contributed almost 600 hours to complete the garden. Their time was spent doing everything from clearing the land and planting to writing a newsletter. This project showed club members how important water use and conservation are to the community. The garden is not only lovely to see, but also a success story demonstrating what can be done by older volunteers working together to preserve scarce water resources.
"To complete this project with items not included in the grant, we held fundraisers and gave talks to clubs and organizations, reaching 750 people with the educational message of how important it is to save water," said Howells. Howells and the project were honored at the District's Water Conservation Conference in April 2003. The project was recognized as an outstanding community grant project that focused on water conservation.
One of the major goals of EPA’s Aging Initiative is to encourage older persons to become involved in their communities to protect the environment and educate others about environmental hazards that may threaten natural resources or endanger public health. The Spring Hill Garden Club shares that goal. Efficient water use can have major environmental, public health, and economic benefits by helping to improve water quality, maintain aquatic ecosystems, and protect drinking water resources. For more information about the South West Florida Water Management District and its Community Education Grants program, call (352)-796-7211 or visit: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/ . For more information about EPA’s Aging Initiative, visit http://www.epa.gov/aging or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.