Hi Gang, Rick here at Used Pontoon Boats. ENGLEWOOD -- A series of free boat rides offered this month and next will give adults an entertaining glimpse of how their daily activities affect life in Lemon Bay.
Starting next week, groups of 12 will venture out on the bay by pontoon boat to explore the connections between land and water with a naturalist from the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center in Punta Gorda.
"A lot of people, they are familiar with going to the beach or going out on a boat, but they don't really understand a lot about the whole estuary system and what's out there under the water," said Martha Clemente, a naturalist who will lead some of the tours.
The program caters to adults and teaches them about life underwater through hands-on activities, such as scooping up tiny sea creatures with a net and peering through the water to find submerged grasses.
The trips fit in with the environmental center's education mission by teaching the public about water quality and giving residents tips on what they can do at home to help keep their bays healthy, said Bobbi Rogers, resource manager for the environmental center.
"People don't realize, if they live in Rotonda for example, that what they do washes into the bay," Rogers said.
The adventures also mesh with the goals of water managers, who must balance drinking water demands with the fresh-water needs of estuaries, such as Charlotte Harbor.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud, granted $3,300 to the environmental center for the boat trips. The agency also granted the center $1,500 for an educational excursion through the Deer Prairie Creek Preserve in Venice.
The funding is part of $1.5 million Swiftmud budgeted this year for hands-on educational events.
"They're very important programs because they help people understand better, watersheds and their connections to watersheds," said Michael Molligan, communications director for Swiftmud. He said the programs also highlighted the important role fresh water plays in the region's bays.
The mix of fresh water from rivers and salty water from the sea is the foundation of an estuary. Underwater grasses, oysters, baby fish, crabs and other sea life thrive when the mix of fresh and salty water is right and when the water is clear.
Clemente said she uses the tour to offer water conservation tips and to encourage the use of native plants in landscaping. In addition to requiring less water, native plants need less fertilizer. Runoff from fertilizer can cause algae blooms that block the sunlight bay grasses need to grow.
"People realize in their day to day activities the difference that what they do individually can make," Clemente said. Thanks to By KATE SPINNER, Herald Tribune
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