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Mill Creek residents tackle pond restoration

EAST MANATEE — More than 60 Mill Creek ponds that provide flood protection and animal habitat are going green this weekend, and volunteers are needed.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is holding the Mill Creek Pond Restoration Project at 8 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers will participate in a pond walk, and learn about maintaining healthy ponds, conserving water and the role such ponds play in the community. Also, volunteers may plant grasses and plants on the edges of ponds that filter rain run-off and provide habitat.

Refreshments such as water and juice will be available for volunteers thanks to a Wal-Mart donation. School-aged children must be accompanied by a parent and volunteers are required to wear closed-toed shoes. Those wanting to plant need to bring a long narrow spade or trowel.

“We want community groups; it can be Boy Scout groups, churches and anyone who want to go a local project,” said Robyn Felix, media relations manager at the regional water district, or SFWMD, “to promote and protect the water resource where they live.”

Shirley Parks, the secretary of the Mill Creek Home Owners Association Board of Directors, is directing the project. She applied for an online grant at www.watermatters.org in August, and the district awarded the Mill Creek Home Owners Association a $3,000 grant for the project. The money pays for the plants and advertising.

Environmental problems occur because of several factors. One is too much fertilization, which, with rainfall, causes fertilizer to run into the storm water sewer that goes into lakes, and then in turn, into the bays, causing algae growth.

Also, mower clippings that aren’t picked up run into the storm water sewage as well.

The sub-division ponds collect rain water to help prevent flooding.

Cindy Bessette, a former area girl scout leader for 15 years, has a dry pond in her Mill Creek backyard. Dry ponds simply transport rainfall to the creek.

“I think (the project) is extremely important,” she said. “A lot of our ponds filter back into the creek so it helps everything including our water quality.”

The water district has become a partner with Freedom Elementary fifth-graders. Parks organized an assembly of educators from SFWMD to educate the students about the rain run-off process. She also passed out flyers advertising the project to Gene Witt Elementary students in hopes their parents will be encouraged to participate.

The next grant application process begins in June, when groups can apply for funding for their own community water resource projects. To apply, visit the SFWMD Web site at www.watermatters.org.

Volunteers for the Mill Creek Pond Restoration Project will gather at ponds 15 and 16 near 602 137th Street northeast. From downtown Bradenton, head east on State Road 64 and turn left on Upper Manatee River Road, then after almost four miles, take a right on 137th Street northeast.

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