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You're invited to a planting party

The destructive no-name storm took plenty of carpet and furniture with it when it blew through Citrus County in March, but it also took some things that the community won't miss _ pesky aquatic weeds.

Before the exotic hydrilla plant that clogs boat propellers returns, a group of local residents organized by Save Kings Bay is planning to plant and nurture some native plants in hopes they will take back some of their previous territory.

This weekend the group is planning a "Planting Party" in a canal behind the Crystal River Post Office. Organizers say they need volunteers to help them plant mats of eel grass, also known as vallisneria, in the canal.

Planting is planned from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and people are needed to sort and plant the eel grass. The group also needs boats and divers to assist with the task.

The eel grass, which was harvested from a lake in the Hernando area, competes with hydrilla and uses the nutrients in the water that otherwise would feed blooms of algae, according to Helen Spivey, who is helping to organize the planting effort.

The plant also is a favorite of manatees and is used as cover by fish. It does not grow tall enough to interfere with boat propellers.

The canal was chosen for the project because it is devoid of plants, because of the recent storm and because of previous herbicide use. When additional supplies of eel grass are available, the group plans to plant them in Kings Bay in areas that are designated manatee sanctuaries, Spivey said.

Volunteers interested in helping with the project need to bring a 1- to 2-foot-long metal rod, wear old shoes or sneakers and be able to swim. While some people only will need to wade in knee-deep water, snorkelers and divers also are needed.

Scissors to trim the plants and several small boats also will be needed.

"This is our opportunity to put the good plants back before the noxious ones recover," Spivey said in a news release. "We can't do it later because later will be too late. . .

"It will be wet and dirty and I can't promise any fun, but if it works, everyone will sure get a good feeling of having done something worthwhile."

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