A St. Petersburg preparatory school is the first recipient of an award created to honor community projects that protect the environment of Tampa Bay.
Canterbury School of Florida will be presented the inaugural Golden Mangrove Award from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program during a luncheon ceremony Friday at the Holiday Inn Select on Ulmerton Road.
Canterbury will receive the award for a habitat restoration project judged to be "heads and tails above the rest" of other projects, said Robert Minthorn, a member of the community advisory committee for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which awarded the prize.
The project, funded by a $6,575.61 "minigrant" from the agency, took a year, said Dan Otis, a Canterbury science teacher who oversaw the restoration.
In the initial part of the work, marsh grass was planted along a tidal creek at the campus to create a salt marsh. The campus, on 62nd Avenue NE, is on the northern edge of Placido Bayou.
A garden composed of native species was created outside a main campus building. More than 350 plants of more than 35 varieties were transplanted to create a 12,000-square-foot garden, Otis said.
About 40 cubic yards of mulch was laid, a microirrigation system was installed, and invasive vegetation such as Brazilian pepper and lead trees were removed.
More than 200 volunteers, including students, parents, staffers and faculty members were involved in the restoration, the instructor said.
Otis said the project was a learning experience for students. They took several field trips to plan the garden and learned the benefits of native vegetation, water conservation and habitat restoration.
"We hope this (garden) will turn into an outdoor classroom as well as a place for students to study the native plants of Florida," Otis said. He also produced a set of lesson plans.
The project was awarded an additional $2,500 from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that allowed the garden to be expanded from a planned 8,000 square feet to the final 12,000, the teacher said.
Canterbury was among a record 52 community organizations and schools that applied for grants this past year, said Minthorn of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
Nearly 25 proposals from Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties received funding totaling $160,000.
The Golden Mangrove Award was created this year to highlight the community project judged the most outstanding, Minthorn said. The mangrove was chosen as the symbol of the award because "the mangrove is so important to the health of the bay."
Competition for the award included a grant for seeding baby bay clams and another for an oyster bar restoration at MacDill Air Force Base, Minthorn said.
The grant money comes from fees for the estuary program's specialty license plate.
Minthorn said that more than $500,000 has been awarded since 1998.