A community garden project in Gulfport has been recognized for its excellence by a regional organization which helped fund it.
Participants in the Gulfport Sustainability Committee who came together to create a rain garden outside the Gulfport Recreation Center learned in early May the garden received the 2020 Golden Mangrove Award from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, who presents the award to “the most outstanding bay mini-grant project in each grant cycle.” The winners will accept the award in person May 27 at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, where they’ll provide a brief overview of the project.
“The Golden Mangrove Subcommittee, which is made up of Community Advisory Committee members, felt that your project encapsulated the true mission of the Bay Mini-Grant program – a grassroots community organization with a commitment to protect Tampa Bay coming together to successfully complete a small project,” a TBEP official stated. “The review committee felt there is no organization more deserving than the Gulfport Sustainability Committee to receive the award.”
City Councilmember April Thanos, one of the participants in the project, said it began in 2020 with an idea to repurpose a small area between the recreation center and 58th Street that was meant to be a retention area. She enlisted the help of Dana Parkinson, who wrote two grants that funded the project.
“Dana took the lead. This had been her idea to start with,” said Thanos. “I knew that she knew about this stuff, and even though she doesn’t live in Gulfport she volunteered to help. She knew what she was doing.”
After getting permission from the City, the group began the installation of various plants that would form the garden. Some came from as far as Safety Harbor to take part, Thanos said, and members of the Native Plant Society pitched in because they liked the project.
Of course, some maintenance was required after the initial installation.
“We had a team that kept it watered and then we had some weeding parties to make sure it was tidy,” said Thanos. “Then we lost some plants and had to have a replanting party.”
Parkinson said the Tampa Bay Estuary Program awarded a $2,432.22 grant and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council provided $1,500. That latter award was earmarked solely for outreach and educational purposes, so the money was used to create large, high-quality, weatherproof signage to educate the public and some smaller metal signs to identify some of the plants. The former grant covered the supplies and materials needed to get the work done.
“This project has been incredible to work on from start to finish, from an idea that came up in a conversation to seeing everyone come together to make it happen,” said Parkinson. “It was really exciting to work on.”