By Nici Daw
Can one person make a difference, or is the effort like a drop of water on a hot stone?
Who is responsible for taking care of our environment – the big corporations or the “regular folk” like you and me? While many people are wasting time arguing about that, we can just go and “do” – Do what? …whatever makes sense.
Daryl, a former volunteer with Grassy Waters Nature Preserve in Palm Beach, was studying up on the Everglades Restoration Program, which is a 30 year, $8 billion effort. He is not a scientist. However, one thing did not seem right to him: the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the 1994 Everglades Forever Act seemed to mainly concentrate on water quality and quantity as well as timing and flow. He felt these plans disregarded the restoration of the forests. Acres of Melaleuca trees have been deforested in order to maintain a healthy water level. However, they have not been replaced by other trees.
Therefore, Daryl came up with the idea of planting Pond Apple trees, an indigenous tree found in wetlands in southeast Florida. Last spring, he collected the seeds, separated them carefully and, with his 3 year old daughter, planted them. He raised hundreds of these trees on his front porch in little cups.
Pond Apples are evergreens and grow very well in wet conditions. They are an excellent habitat for birds. Their fruit serves as a food source for animals. They also naturally remove potentially harmful nutrients, helping to clean the water without draining it. Another advantage of Pond Apples is their fast reproduction. Two or three Pond Apple trees will soon multiply to a little Pond Apple island.
As one thing leads to another…, Daryl saw The Kids Ecology Corps van, wrote down the phone number, and called. Soon enough, The Kids Ecology Corps had over 300 Pond Apples trees ready to distribute. Several parks like Tree Tops, Secret Woods, CB Smith Park, as well as the IGFA were cordially welcoming these plants, because they were filling the need for native trees. Two of the places are even planning to schedule an event, where everybody is welcome to learn about Pond Apples and help plant them.
But those baby trees did not only help the environment and add beauty to our landscape – they served as a lot more. Tragically, a teenager and his father were recently killed in a plane accident. At the funeral, the tradition of planting trees was mentioned in the eulogy. Sixteen of those trees will be planted by his school in memory and honor of those two loved ones.
A small undertaking like Daryl’s can have such an impact. Those trees will make a permanent difference at 5 different locations, a learning experience for two separate groups of children, and provide a lasting memory in honor of a young man and his father. One person’s action has created a ripple effect touching the lives of many today and into the future.
There are many ways to get involved as an individual or as part of a group. Are you ready to make a difference? Take the initiative! Become part of the solution! If you would like to participate in a Pond Apple tree planting event at Tree Tops Park on March 20th or at IGFA on March 21st, please contact The Kids Ecology Corps in advance at (954) 524-0366. Here in the United States, we each can plant 9 trees a year to help keep our environment balanced.