CELEBRATE COMMUNITY: Boys and Girls Club kids plant living shoreline at Mattie Kelly Park


Special to the Daily News

DESTIN — The local shoreline is a little more protected thanks to the efforts of dozens of kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs on the Emerald Coast.

On July 25 the kids planted smooth cordgrass plants at  Mattie Kelly Park and Nature Walk in Destin, guided by staff from Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA). 

The children had been caring for smooth cordgrass plants for weeks before they were ready to be placed along the bayou for a new living shoreline project. Five plants were placed in each burlap sack, which was then tied off and carried to the edge of the water. Together, they will protect the shoreline from erosion while creating habitat for wildlife

CBA Communications Coordinator Erika Zambello said it was her first experience working with the Grasses to Classes students.

“I was seriously blown away, it’s a special experience for the kids,” she said. “They were all so excited. One of the students said he was going to come back and visit his plant with his parents.”

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The Boys and Girls Club groups are the summer version of a wider Grasses in Classes program run by the CBA during the school year. CBA’s Grasses in Classes is a hands-on, environmental education program that gives students a direct role the restoration of Choctawhatchee Bay. In partnership with AmeriCorps and with partial funding from the USFWS Coastal Program, Boeing Corp. and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, CBA provides teachers in Okaloosa and Walton counties and the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their schools.

“It’s not only teaching students about the environment, but field trips and hands-on learning have been proven to improve graduation rates. Students may also become higher earners,” Zambello said. “We want to help students become well-rounded.”

Grasses In Classes students tend salt marsh nurseries throughout the school year. They also receive monthly education on local estuarine topics that meet Florida’s state science standards from CBA and CBA partners. Periodically, the schoolchildren split the grasses to increase the nursery stock. At the end of the school year, Grasses in Classes culminates with students planting their shoreline grasses at one of the salt marsh restoration sites along the bay as part of the living shoreline initiative.

For more information, visit basinalliance.org.