Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Photo: Gabber

“Soon, signs like these — provided by the National Wildlife Federation to gardens that provide food, water, shelter, and breeding grounds to local wildlife — will be installed at nine new wildlife habitats on the campus of Eckerd College. The certification process is open to grounds of any size, from college campuses to backyard gardens.

When an Eckerd College student approached Grounds Manager Darla Ostenson about collaborating on a project to improve wildlife habitats for snakes on campus, she had a strong reaction.

She recalls: ‘I thought, snake habitat?! And then I thought: Yes! Somebody pinch me!’

For Ostenson, a landscape manager with a degree in conservation biology, this was a indeed a dream project. And further evidence that she’d landed in a place where animals, plants, and people could come together in ways that were not only sustainable, but educational.

New Wildlife Habitats

This spring, another eco-friendly landscaping project came to fruition: Eckerd designated nine areas across its campus as wildlife habitat, certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

Certification requires applicants to demonstrate that their habitat supplies food, water, cover, and breeding grounds for animals such as birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It also calls for sustainable practices, such as using native plants or organic methods of pest management, for the habitat. The National Wildlife Federation states that 22,513 ‘wildlife gardens’ have been created through its certification process, which is open to all kinds of sites from Eckerd’s 188-acre campus to backyard gardens.

According to Ostenson, the process was simple. After surveying prospective habitats and gaining approval from Eckerd’s Environmental Affairs Committee, she was able to input the information directly to the National Wildlife Federation’s website. Eckerd’s student government and Office of Sustainability covered the certification fees, which defrays the cost of a stylish sign you can place in your habitat.

In spring 2023, a pair of Great Horned owls nested in a pine tree on Eckerd College’s campus, helping to inspire the idea of habitat certification for this and other areas of campus.

Eckerd’s newly certified habitats span a range of types, from meadow-like native flower gardens, to ponds fringed with aquatic plants, to pine groves. Some high-profile visitors have recently put one of the new habitats on the map: a pair of nesting great horned owls…”

— Amanda Hagood, The Gabber

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“Green gardening: Phipps Ocean Park redo will be model for sustainability”

“Green gardening: Phipps Ocean Park redo will be model for sustainability”

Photo: Kim Frisbie

Photo: Kim Frisbie

“I was fortunate to have a recent tour of the wonderful Phipps Ocean Park. This exciting project will be a tremendous gift to the residents of Palm Beach.

The Preservation Foundation’s plans for the renovation of this 18-acre area include educational facilities and native landscaping to promote and restore environmental sustainability. In 1948, the Phipps family donated 1,200 feet of ocean frontage for use as a public park to ensure the land remained open in perpetuity. The park has not been well-managed in the intervening 75 years, is grossly underutilized, and currently consists of just some random paths and picnic tables with a few cabanas. Plantings are infested with invasive species including Brazilian pepper and melaleuca, and it is not an inviting area to visit.

Enter the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach in 2019 with a master plan for the park, incorporating educational facilities with native landscaping to restore, protect and preserve the coastal and intracoastal vegetation. Unique, diverse, and extraordinary spaces will inspire visitors to understand and appreciate the importance of environmental sustainability. With Raymond Jungles’ vision to promote the park as a nature preserve, it will be planted with only native species, capturing the original spirit of the land as the Phipps family knew it. Visitors will gain exceptional education and information on plants they can add to their own landscapes, seeing how different species grow on coastal and inland areas…

Phipps Ocean Park will also embody an important coastal restoration center dedicated to growing native species for the park and for the Town of Palm Beach. This nursery/propagation facility will provide hands-on activities for children and adults for restoring coastal ecosystems throughout the island or in their own landscapes…

The historic Little Red Schoolhouse, built in 1886 and recently restored to its one-room glory, will interact with a new outdoor classroom sponsored by the Garden Club of Palm Beach to provide additional educational opportunities for children in an engaging native setting…”

— Kim Frisbie, Palm Beach Daily News

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Commercial Use of Public Parking: “St. Pete Beach restaurant granted outdoor dining ‘parklet’”

Commercial Use of Public Parking: “St. Pete Beach restaurant granted outdoor dining ‘parklet’”

Illustration: City of St. Pete Beach

“After a series of commission meetings and design changes, Chill Restaurant at 357 Corey Ave., which bills itself as an American fusion-style eatery and bar, was finally granted permission to have permanent outdoor dining using a so-called parklet.

During a hearing at the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting, debate and discussion by some residents centered around whether Chill should be able to use three or four city-owned parking spaces in front of the restaurant, as well as whether the city should use taxpayer money to defray some of the cost of building the outdoor seating area.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city granted some restaurants and bars temporary permission to offer outdoor dining, since indoor seating was restricted and not favored by patrons.

Now, with outdoor dining still gaining in popularity, the city has provided a way for restaurants and taverns to offer outdoor seating in ‘parklets’ on a permanent basis. Chill subsequently applied to feature permanent parklet seating in front of the eatery.

City Manager Alex Rey said the Chill parklet has been redesigned so the city will lose only four parking spaces instead of five…

Commissioner Mark Grill, who opposes using public funds to defray the cost of the parklet, noted the permanent parklet would cost $100,000, while the semi-permanent option would be $50,000.

With the $50,000 option, Chill would pay the $50,000, with the parklet stricture belonging to the eatery. Chill would be able to take four parking spaces for its outdoor seating and pay rent of $1,500 a month, or 10 percent of the revenue from outdoor tables, for three years of the contract.

With the $100,000 permanent option, Chill would pay $50,000 with the city making up the difference up to almost $100,000. In this scenario, the city would own the parklet.

Grill said in speaking with the city manager he was told the permanent parklet will be nicer looking and constructed with more sturdy materials. It will also include curbing with a multimodal bump-out and improved drainage.

Mayor Al Johnson added, ‘It will be aesthetically a lot better.’…

Responding to criticism by a member of the public as to why the city is giving a private business an interest-free loan with taxpayer money, Johnson said, ‘This is like any public-private partnership. We’re creating an asset for the city, partially paid for by the client and partially by us, and it’s going to be an income-generating asset, so I don’t see a problem with it.’…

After discussion, the commission voted 3-1 to give permission for Chill Restaurant to install a permanent outdoor dining parklet, with Grill casing a dissenting vote and commissioner Melinda Pletcher absent.”


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A Place: Florida National Scenic Trail Northern Terminus Gulf Islands National Seashore

A Place: Florida National Scenic Trail Northern Terminus Gulf Islands National Seashore

Photo: NPS

“The Florida National Scenic Trail , or just Florida Trail, is a federally-designated trail intended to offer a continuous non-motorized recreation opportunity showcasing the biodiversity, history, and culture of Florida.

Its northern terminus lies here on the white sands of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Follow it south for over 1,300 miles and you’ll eventually find its southern terminus in the river of grass in Big Cypress National Preserve…

Florida is home to many unique environments, some of which are not seen anywhere else in the world. This gives trail users prime access to some of the best nature and wildlife viewing opportunities in the country. By traveling the Florida Trail, one can experience a variety of ecosystems including longleaf pine forests, sand dune scattered beaches, and hardwood hammocks. Wildlife viewing along the Florida Trail is also spectacular, providing visitors with the opportunity to see black bears, alligators, panthers, gopher tortoises, and many species of endangered birds including wood storks, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and roseate spoon bills. Whether exploring a secluded wilderness area or a Florida Trail Gateway Community, the Florida Trail is the perfect place to find an authentic outdoor experience.”

— National Park Service

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Visit Florida Trails here

“Named The Most Beautiful Small Town In Florida, Take A Closer Look At DeFuniak Springs”

“Named The Most Beautiful Small Town In Florida, Take A Closer Look At DeFuniak Springs”

Photo: Only In Your State Florida

“MSN Insider came out with a list of the best small towns in every state, and we’re happy to say that DeFuniak Springs was named the most beautiful spot in Florida. This panhandle gem is loaded with history, but also boasts a beautiful appeal that you don’t want to miss out on. Plan a weekend trip to explore this delightful town and see what you’ve been missing.

DeFuniak Springs, Florida was originally founded as a 19th-century resort for railroad travelers, welcoming various notable guests from presidents to writers, musicians, and poets.

Today, visiting DeFuniak Springs will provide much of the same Victorian charm and architecture that it held way back when. Visit the Walton County Library, also known as the oldest library in the state before heading off to find a nice meal at a local mom-and-pop shop…”

— Victoria Scott, WJHG/WECP

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Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn to speak at Scenic Jacksonville’s 2022 Great Cities Symposium

Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn to speak at Scenic Jacksonville’s 2022 Great Cities Symposium

“Jacksonville, FL (June 7, 2022) – Scenic Jacksonville is pleased to announce that former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be its guest speaker at the 2022 Great Cities Symposium on Wednesday, October 12th from 5 until 8 p.m. at the Garden Club of Jacksonville, 1005 Riverside Avenue. Tickets are $100 per person and are on sale at

Buckhorn presided over the rapid growth and increased vibrancy of Tampa’s urban core during his two terms as mayor of Tampa (2011-2019). With a focus on community engagement, infill development, business partnerships and the previously underutilized Hillsborough river, Buckhorn led Tampa’s transformation into what is now a top city for corporate business, private equity and start ups, with a thriving young professionals economy.

Among his many accomplishments as mayor are the completion of the 2.4 mile Tampa Riverwalk, the West River redevelopment plan with the 25 acre Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, the redevelopment of Armature Works and the Tampa Heights neighborhood, and the $3 billion Water Street mixed use development, currently underway. He also created a Stay and Play initiative for underserved youth, and worked to streamline the way the city does business.

The evening’s activities will begin with a cocktail social hour and silent auction from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. featuring beer, wine, a signature cocktail and hors d’ouevres from Biscottis. The program will be held from 6:15 – 7:30 to include remarks from Buckhorn, discussion and Q & A. Desserts and cocktails will be served from 7:30 – 8 p.m. along with the conclusion of the silent auction.

The Great Cities Symposium is an annual fundraiser hosted by Scenic Jacksonville for the purpose of bringing inspired examples of leadership and peer city solutions to the people of Jacksonville. The program aims to inform, entertain and engage citizens with continuing discussions of how we can continue to improve our city for the benefit of future generations. It is the primary fundraiser for Scenic Jacksonville to further its mission.

Scenic Jacksonville wishes to thank its sponsors which make the event possible. Gold Sponsors are FIS, Foley & Lardner, the Brinton family, Barbara and William Harrell and all sponsors are displayed on the event web page. We welcome additional sponsorships and in-kind donations. Information available on the website at”

— Scenic Jacksonville

Please visit Scenic Jacksonville for more information here