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Volunteer work grows at Benderson Park in Sarasota

Sarasota County Public Works managers plant trees and bushes at Nathan Benderson Park.

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Paula Wiggins, the transportation planning manager for Sarasota County, was playing the role of gardener Nov. 30 as she tended to Fakahatchee Grass that was being planted at Nathan Benderson Park.

"This is way outside of my general duties," Wiggins said.

Wiggins was participating in a volunteer project by Sarasota County Public Works managers. Wiggins and her fellow managers had a retreat in the morning at the park's finish tower and then 30 of the managers headed to the east side of the park to plant 30 bushes and 112 trees.

Although Wiggins was working hard, she said she was glad to participate.

"I run and bike out here," she said.

Bob Whitford, the director of facilities and operations for Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, the manager of Nathan Benderson Park, was thrilled to have the volunteer manpower.

Whitford said the effort included planting 100 bald cypress trees, 12 Florida flame red maples and hundreds of bushes — the greenery was donated by Cherry Lake Tree Farm. Those trees and bushes should act as a natural filter to catch runoff from Interstate 75 that would be headed toward Nathan Benderson Park Lake.

The new trees and bushes will hopefully act as a filter between the park and Interstate 75.
The new trees and bushes will hopefully act as a filter between the park and Interstate 75.

Cherry Lake Tree Farm is involved in an initiative to donate and plant trees in protected conservation areas to help ecosystems.

“We want to inspire communities to plant trees,” said Timothee Sallin, the president of Cherry Lake Tree Farm in a release. “We want to get people thinking about the future.”

Eventually, as the new trees and bushes grow, Whitford said it can be a stop for local school children at the park in terms of a lesson on Florida natives.

Although the cypress trees will work mainly as a filter, the maples were being planted along the running path to offer an oasis of shade. "We wanted to be strategic where we put the maples because we don't want to add maintenance," Whitford said.

Among the volunteer workers was Spencer Anderson, the director of Public Works. He said the work detail just made sense since the mangers were going to be at the park anyway.

"This is a county resource and it's one of the crown jewels of Sarasota County," he said of the park. "And it was a nice break to being in the office. We’re excited about the opportunity to plant new trees that will grow to support the county’s urban canopy, providing shade, habitat and environmental benefits for the public."

Bernard Bonds, the supervisor of right of way and landscaping, said it was a "good team building experience."

Also planted during the work day were aquatic plans such as duck potato and pickerel plants.

Sallin said the trees and plants clean water by drawing water through their roots as it passes through.


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