Cape Coral Earns Environmental Sustainability Award
Cape Coral Sustaining Excellence
When most people hear the word “sustainability,” biofuels and windmills and solar tubes dance through their heads, along with the expensive dollar signs necessary to convert homes and businesses from the standard grid to the energy sources of the new millennium.
The Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department recently received the Florida Recreation & Park Association’s “2015 Agency Excellence Award for Environmental Sustainability.” To qualify for this prestigious distinction, the highest honor an agency can receive at the state level, Cape Coral Parks and Recreation had to demonstrate how it successfully integrated an environmental focus into its parks, facilities, programs, planning, training, administration, and citizen involvement, as well as proving the positive impact of these efforts on the community.
Achievements include recent enhancements to Sireia Vista Park and Cape Coral’s other environmental parks, as well as adding over 90 miles of interconnected bicycle and pedestrian routes to promote physical fitness, while reducing the effect of fossil- fuel automobiles. Additionally, Cape Coral Parks and Recreation learned it is not always what you renovate or construct, but how to more effectively use what you already have in a better and smarter way.
“An excellent example is the implementation of energy-saving measures at our recreation facilities,” says Michelle Dean, Marketing Coordinator for the Department. “We established bench marks in 2008 and, since then, Cape Coral Parks and Recreation has reduced its electricity usage by 27%, amounting to a savings of over $81,000.” Aids used to assist in the process include motion light sensors, automated lighting control systems, programmable thermostats with temperature locks in place, energy-efficient light bulbs, and infrared cameras to eliminate all-night security lighting. “Making some simple habit changes, as well as putting low-cost tools in place to assist with energy-saving efforts, has made a huge difference,” says Michelle. “The savings realized by Cape Coral Parks and Recreation during this time is equivalent to not burning 469 tons of coal – a reduction that has a big impact on the environment.” Energy-efficient components are now a part of the Department’s three-year budget plan, as sustainability is a priority from department leaders down through the ranks.
In addition to energy saving efforts, Cape Coral Parks and Recreation now puts more of its publications and promotional materials online and prints less hard copies. Administration provides education to appropriate staff on eco-friendly products, mandates training in pesticide application since anything put onto the ground ultimately drains into our water supply, and encourages people to clean up animal waste for similar reasons. Furthermore, the department offers a wide variety of free and low-cost programs pertaining to nature, gardening, wildlife, and more on a regular basis, so citizens can learn about their environment and how they can apply best practices to encourage long-term sustainability.
One of Cape Coral’s unique partnerships is with the Community Garden program with Trafalgar Middle School. For the past several years, Cape Coral has partnered with the school by donating citrus trees to their Student Garden Club. To date, the kids grew and donated roughly 70,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to a local soup kitchen. “This teaches them first-hand about hunger in their own community, sustainability, the importance of citizenship, and how you can positively impact the lives of your neighbors,” says Michelle. “Perhaps the most crucial aspect is that the children learn at a young age the value of sustainability and community, as they will grow up to become our future leaders. If we teach them these ideals while they are young, they will value them their entire life.”
Cape Coral Parks and Recreation staff members also sit on the city’s long-range planning committee that seeks to implement smart growth, as its current population of approximately 160,000 has a projected build-out of roughly 400,000. “It is critical that Cape Coral be sensitive of our environment, as it is our climate and flora-&-fauna that so many come to visit or move here to appreciate,” emphasizes Michelle. “We must not only preserve it today, but maintain it into the future, and the best way to do that is to reduce our carbon footprint. Cape Coral Parks and Recreation is proud to be at the forefront of this essential mission.”
For more information on Cape Coral Parks and Recreation and details about upcoming environmental programs and events, visit www.CapeParks.com, follow them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CapeCoralParks, and on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/CapeCoralParks.
Gary Mooney is a retired local government administrator and a contributing writer for SWFL Sustainability. He has a passion for covering health and sustainability and is a local expert on Zika Virus. You can learn more about Gary online at www.garymooney.net & www.zikavirus.guru and reach Gary at [email protected].