MILL CREEK — As Rita Cohen looks out on the pond behind her Mill Creek home, the water’s surface glistens in the afternoon sunlight.
But the view isn’t one she sees every day. Many times instead, the pond is covered with algae.
Now, she and fellow resident Jim Hodgkinson are working to improve the appearance and quality of their ponds permanently.
The pair is applying for a Southwest Florida Water Management District Community Education Grant, which is meant to provide people with an opportunity to create community-based educational experiences that will help protect and conserve Florida’s ecosystem. Cohen and Hodgkinson are hoping to get $5,000 grant for their project.
“We’re driven by the fact we have algae on our pond,” Cohen said. “We are hoping we will be able to lessen the amount of chemicals we are putting into the water. We have these great ponds, but they could be healthier.”
The application deadline is Aug. 20, but grant winners won’t be announced until February.
If their efforts pay off, they will have from March 1 to July 31 to complete their project, which includes both educational and planting components.
Cohen and Hodgkinson first would hold a seminar to educate residents about the purpose of storm water retention ponds, the benefits of correct fertilizer and pesticide use and how to plant vegetation in pond littoral zones, among other issues.
Then, the actual planting can begin, with residents installing about 5,000 plants in the littoral shelves of five or six retention ponds in Phase 7 of Mill Creek. The plants will absorb fertilizer runoff and reduce the amount of chemicals needed to treat ponds. The change ultimately will improve water quality, making it better for local wildlife and reducing algae blooms.
As part of their application, they also hope to install two dog-waste stations, and some additional signage to remind residents to “scoop the poop.” Keeping pet waste out of the water system will help keep the ponds healthier too, Cohen said.
“It’s one of those think globally, act locally,” she said. “You have to start somewhere.”
Although the grant is not guaranteed, Cohen and Hodkinson already have taken their plea to their homeowner’s association, letting the group know they will need volunteers for the project if it is funded. They also plan to put educational information out in the community newsletter.
Additionally, if the application is successful and Mill Creek residents are able to plant thousands of littoral plants as hoped, the vegetation will multiply, allowing residents to move some of the plants to other ponds and expand the effort with virtually no associated cost, Hodgkinson said.
Eventually, he and Cohen also hope to stock the lake with fish as well as carp to help control algae and further improve water quality issues.
Cohen and Hodgkinson applied for the Community Education Grant about two years ago but did not get approval. The pair is hopeful this year’s submission, which will be more detailed, will prove successful.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].