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Awards go to champions of nature

A trail, a golf community and a program to help residents save water were among several awards for environmental excellence given out this week by the Pinellas Economic Development Council (PEDC).

The Pinellas Trail topped the list by winning the special chairman's award. The award went to the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and King Engineering for the trail project. The trail eventually will stretch 47 miles from St. Petersburg to Oldsmar.

"This project is a special one to Pinellas County because of so many different groups, city municipalities and individuals who worked together to make this project become a reality," said Dick Fletcher, weather forecaster for WTSP-Ch. 10, who awarded the prizes at a ceremony earlier this week.

This is the second year the PEDC has given out awards to businesses, communities and individuals who are doing something extra to help the environment. The awards are designed to recognize excellence, but also to encourage other people to get involved in environmental projects.

"We want this to be significant. We want the awards to go to people who are really working on environmental challenges," said Patty Clark, who serves on the PEDC's Environment and Natural Resources Council. "We really hope it will encourage other companies to do the same thing."

Entries are judged on compatibility with the natural environment, preservation or enhancement of environmental quality, conservation of natural resources, and promotion of environmental awareness and culture.

In two categories, no awards were given. No entries were received in the category of Site Development and Landscape/Commercial Multifamily. In another category, Site Development and Landscape/Park or Plaza, two entries were received, but judges didn't feel either was worthy of an award.

The following awards were presented:

Environmental Technologies category: The award went to the Pinellas County Water System for an extensive retrofit program designed to distribute hundreds of free water-saving kits to Pinellas County households.

Environmental Culture/Public Media: Awarded to the Tampa Tribune and the Southwest Florida Water Management District for a special section on saving water that was distributed to elementary school children.

Environmental Culture/Education: The city of St. Petersburg won for a number of programs to help teach environmental awareness to residents. The programs include an environmental education center, recycling education for schoolchildren and city residents, and educational programs about native trees, marine debris and potable water.

Large Scale Site Development and Landscape: The new community of Dolphin Cay on the shores of Boca Ciega Bay won for the preservation of 37 acres that include a mangrove and salt marsh. The community also has planted special grass that needs less water, designed a specialized sanitary sewer system and uses recycled water for irrigation.

Two merit awards also were presented, one to Bayou Club Estates, which incorporated natural habitats into the planning of the community, and one to Florida Power Corp. for a community outreach program and an alternative energy program.