The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District invites the public to participate in a day of service at the W.P. Franklin South Lock and Dam Recreation Area near Alva on National Public Lands Day, Saturday, September 23, from 7:30 a.m. through 12 p.m. Activities include planting 15,000 wildflowers and grasses in an area that was previously a large open field, to provide habitat restoration and educational opportunities for the local community.
“We welcome volunteers of all ages to help us complete this 8.5-acre reforestation project at the W.P. Franklin Recreation Area as part of our Engineering with Nature Program,” said Greg Jones, the Chief of the South Florida Operations Office in Clewiston. “This planting day will be available to members of the local community who would like to volunteer to plant native wildflowers and grasses in an effort to introduce pollinator species and provide natural habitat.”
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is excited to welcome volunteers of all ages to help us complete our Engineering with Nature reforestation project. We are looking for volunteers to assist us in planting 15,000 two-inch containers of Florida native wildflowers and grasses,” said Megan Parsons, Natural Resources Specialist. “This is a very special project to be a part of, and participants will be able to see how this once-grassy field has been transformed into a beautiful, native habitat that attracts pollinators and other native species.”
“Volunteers will be shocked to see the growth in our previously planted trees and wildflowers and will be excited to see butterflies and even hummingbirds utilizing this green space,” said Parsons. “It will be a wonderful place for families to return to over the years. As the trees planted by our volunteers mature, people will be able to walk on the shaded paths and reflect on how they were part of this effort to restore this space to a beautiful natural area.”
The event will be held on National Public Lands Day, Saturday, September 23, from 7:30 a.m. through 12- p.m. at the W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area, at 1661 S. Franklin Lock Road, Alva, Florida 33920. Note: the event is on the south side of the Caloosahatchee River.
Please RSVP to Natural Resources Specialist Megan Parsons at 863-840-8598 or Megan.L.Parsons@usace.army.mil.
DIRECTIONS (access to the W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area is on the SOUTH side of the Caloosahatchee River):
From I-75, take Exit 141 (Highway 80-Ft. Myers/LaBelle). Travel east 2.4 miles past Highway 31 to Old Olga Road. Turn left on Old Olga Road and travel 2.2 miles to the W.P. Franklin Lock Recreation Area entrance road, turn left and follow to recreation area.
From LaBelle, travel west on Highway 80, 5.5 miles past the intersection with Highway 884. Turn right onto Old Olga Road, travel 0.3 miles to the W.P. Franklin South Lock Recreation Area entrance road, turn right and follow to recreation area.
“National Public Lands Day is an incredible annual event, and this year is the 30th Annual Celebration. People can get outside and challenge themselves mentally and physically while engaging with members of the community they live in,” said Robert Hill, Natural Resources Specialist. “It’s a great opportunity to contribute to the community, especially for students needing volunteer or community service hours.”
WHAT TO WEAR: Volunteers are asked to wear closed-toe shoes and clothes that are appropriate for getting dirty. Please bring a pair of gloves to protect your hands if you have them. We can provide a pair of gloves if needed.
WHAT TO BRING: Make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, and any other sun protection you may need. Bring plenty of water if you’d like, and, water will also be provided.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Come join us for as little or as long as you’d like! Planting will occur rain or shine. All volunteers are required to review an Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA) and sign volunteer forms prior to the event. On the day of the event, you will be assigned to a planting zone. Breaks can be taken whenever needed, and there will be access to shade tents and restrooms.
“The Jacksonville District’s Natural Resources Program started brainstorming ideas on how to reduce the operation and maintenance costs for recreation assets such as those at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam a number of years ago,” said Nelson Colón, Natural Resources Program Manager. “This project is one of those ideas, finally come to fruition: planting native vegetation to reforest an area, reducing the need for mowing, which in turn reduces the use of fossil fuels and saves taxpayer dollars. That’s Engineering with Nature!”
Thousands of volunteers are expected to support the more than 60 USACE projects participating in this year’s National Public Lands Day, the largest annual volunteer hands-on restoration activity of its kind. Last year 6,990 volunteers served 26,000 hours on USACE-managed lands, removing 86,394 pounds of trash, cleaning 852 miles of roadways and shoreline, maintaining 90 miles of trails, improving 1,044 acres of habitat, and engaging 270 partner organizations.
USACE has been involved with National Public Lands Day since its inception in 1994 and has consistently been one of the event’s largest providers of sites and volunteers. USACE manages more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states. With 90 percent of these projects located within 50 miles of metropolitan areas, USACE sites provide a wide range of safe and affordable outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.