Youth volunteers plant 500 trees at Gourd Island Conservation Area

PALATKA, Fla., Jan. 25, 2016 — A dozen teens and three mentors joined St. Johns River Water Management District staff at the Gourd Island Conservation Area in St. Johns County on a chilly January afternoon to hand plant 500 longleaf pines.

“It is always exciting to partner with the community on restoration projects on district lands, which help improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat and offer recreational opportunities” said District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. “I applaud the Lakewood United Methodist Church youth and their mentors for reaching out to us with this project and for their hard work. Their stewardship will leave a legacy for generations to come.”

Starting this month, the district will begin planting 500 acres with 203,000 longleaf pine, 36,500 slash pine, 3,000

bald cypress seedlings and 100 sand live oak trees.Over the past 10 years, the district has planted 7,434 acres of longleaf pine trees and 1,302 acres of slash pine trees.

Gourd Island Conservation Area features wetland and upland natural communities, including floodplain swamp, basin swamp, dome swamp, depression marsh, wet flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, sandhill and xeric hammock. The tract provides significant water resource protection for Durbin and Sampson creeks, which border the property.

The district owns or manages approximately 735,500 acres of land throughout its 18-countyservice area. Virtually all district property is open to the public for activities that are compatible with conservation.