In late July, the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District celebrated their 68th Anniversary on World Conservation Day. Local sponsors, community advocates, and members of the public were all present to celebrate at the Garden Club of Jacksonville. Highlights from the evening included delicious catering from head chef of 13 Gypsies, Kevan Kimball, and drinks from Legacy Kitchen & Catering; words of acknowledgement from the Board of Supervisors; a special guest presentation by Kay Ehas of Groundwork Jacksonville; and a raffle drawing of over 20 different prizes from local community sponsors.
Formed in 1953, the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District was formed to help landowners and users to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources. This year marks the 68th anniversary, as well as the celebration of World Conservation Day. The Board, especially event chair, Ashantae Green, worked diligently to prepare a special event to celebrate the hard work of conservation members in the community.
Each year the Board recognizes a “Conservation Teacher of the Year”. This year, due to the limitations of the pandemic last year, two teachers were recognized for their dedication as educators to the mission of conservation. Aesha Johnson (2021 Awardee), a 4th grade math and science teacher at Jacksonville Beach Elementary, strives to instill conservation efforts and education in her students through her teaching and as chairperson of her school’s annual Family Science Night. Additionally, the student winner of the District’s 2021 poster contest came from her class. Steven Sherrill (2020 Awardee) has been an educator for 26 years, with 16 as the Marine and AP Environmental Science at Sandalwood High School. He was the faculty sponsor of GreenState Environmental Club for 15 years and has been involved in the District’s Envirothon as well as encouraging his students’ involvement in countless other conservation efforts throughout the city. Duval SWCD is delighted to show our appreciation to our outstanding Duval County educators.
Guest speaker, Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville shared about the exciting projects Groundwork Jacksonville is championing to help with the development of downtown including the restoration of McCoys Creek, Hogans Creek and the creation of the Emerald Trail. The latter is a 30 mile path that will connect our city's historic urban neighborhoods to downtown and will link schools, colleges and parks. Duval SWCD's innovative Regeneration Park, primarily funded by a grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts, is situated along the biodiversity corridor of the Emerald Trail. Kay shared that the important message of Groundwork Jacksonville’s projects was, “not only building trails and restoring creeks, [but] building community.”
Lastly, due in large part to the generous sponsorship of many community organizations, the event raised over $1500.
The District would like to recognize our community sponsors: The Jacksonville Garden Club, Apple Rabbit Compost, Juicy Roots Farm, Legacy Kitchen & Catering, Native Jax, Soil Life Organics, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Individual sponsors included: Sebastian Alexander, Will Dunn, and Diane Krug.
It's National Pollinator Week! We're calling upon each citizen and business to help protect our pollinators by planting pollinator gardens, reducing or eliminating pesticide use, and becoming more aware of the importance of pollinator species. See the proclamation below!
It's time for our June Volunteer of the Month! We would like to recognize Duval County Extension Director, Stephanie Toelle. Stephanie is an engaged agency representative, working closely to support our meetings which are hosted by the Extension office. She was instrumental in organizing our 2020 Farm Share Food Distribution event in partnership with Extension agents and volunteers. We are grateful that Stephanie shares her more than 25 years of experience at the Duval County Extension with us and is available to consult on our programs and activities.
More about Stephanie:
We were pleased to host our annual Speech & Poster Contest in March. Due to the ongoing health emergency, we held this year's contest virtually. This year's theme was "Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities". Trees are vital. As the biggest plants on the planet, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere, stabilize the soil, filter water, provide healthy habitat for wildlife and offer many additional benefits – for nature, people and biodiversity. Not only is it necessary to protect existing trees and plant new ones, but it’s also important to advocate and educate about trees and forest conservation within your community.
Congratulations to our 2021 Speech and Poster Contest winners!
1st (Grades K-1) - Vidyut Arjun, Jacksonville Beach Elementary
1st (Grades 4-6) - Marvel Li, Jacksonville Beach Elementary
2nd (Grades 4-6) - Adwita Pradhan, Jacksonville Beach Elementary
1st (Grades 7-9) - Grace Flaven, Lake Shore Middle School
1st (Grades 7-9) - Grace Flaven, Lake Shore Middle School
Our 1st place winners will go on to compete in the Area III level of competition later this year!
In 2018, the Duval Soil & Water Conservation District launched its Conservation Teacher of the Year award. This award recognizes the work of any K-12 teacher in Duval County who has been involved in both education and action during the past year. The ideal candidate is a principled conservationist who educates students on natural resource conservation practices and initiates student action in their community or school in order to improve quality of life for Duval County residents. All Duval County teachers who have participated in one of the District’s programs during the last year will be considered for recognition as our Conservation Teacher of the Year. This year's deadline is June 15th. Application
2020 - Steven Sherrill, Sr., Marine and AP Environmental Science Teacher at Sandalwood High School
Highlights: Participation in Annual Fred B. Miller Envirothon, instrumental in Sandalwood High School being named Duval County Public Schools’ first Green Champion School in 2010, winner of the 2017 Keep America Beautiful Youth & Education Award
2019 - Kendal Schmidt, Middle School Teacher at The Foundation Academy
Highlights: Participation Joe B. Forshee, Jr. Speech and Poster Contest, Monarch Waystation efforts and other student activities that include aquaponic farming and composting
2018 - Dr. Scott P. Sowell, Environmental Science Teacher at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School
Highlights: Participation in Annual Fred B. Miller Envirothon and algae eutrophication experiments with his AP Environmental Science students. The District nominated Dr. Sowell for the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board's Individual Environmental Achievement award, which he also won.
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District is partnering with Groundwork Jacksonville and local environmental organizations to present Earth Day: A Celebration of Stewardship, Saturday, April 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This free community event will be held on the S-Line Biodiversity Corridor of the Emerald Trail, between Moncrief Road and Boulevard. Parking is available at the Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2335 N. Davis Street.
The goal of the event is to increase environmental awareness and teach children and adults specific things they can do to make their homes and landscape more eco-friendly, while providing an opportunity for people from all areas of town to connect outdoors and celebrate the planet.
Activities will include music, prize giveaways and demonstrations on native landscaping, soil and water conservation and testing, tree guilds, ollas irrigation systems, rain barrels, pollinator gardens, bee hotels, public art and more. Guests will receive a passport with information about how to participate in the various activities to earn a gift certificate from participating Springfield neighborhood restaurants.
Throughout the day, DSWCD will present plans for the innovative Regeneration Park, a green infrastructure and community stewardship project that will be built along the S-Line link of the Emerald Trail near the Sugar Hill Mosaic. The goal of Regeneration Park is to demonstrate urban agriculture, cultivate environmental stewardship and empower residents to build with nature for social, economic and environmental health.
We are pleased to partner with the St. Johns River Water Management District to increase awareness about the importance of water conservation. See the full proclamation below.
Urban Agriculture Coordinator
Estimated Hours – 25 per week
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) is an at-large elected board of five supervisors, with no party affiliation. The DSWCD organized by concerned citizens of Duval County to help landowners and users to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources.
The Urban Agriculture Coordinator is responsible for the coordination of DSWCD’s Regeneration Park project. Regeneration Park is a green infrastructure and community stewardship project which will create a safe space on public land within an underrepresented community to demonstrate urban agriculture, cultivate environmental stewardship and empower residents to build with nature for social, economic and environmental health.
The above job description is meant to describe the general nature and level of work to be performed. It is not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, or skills required for the position. Employees will be required to follow other job-related instructions and perform other job-related duties as requested by their supervisor, in compliance with Federal and State laws. Strict adherence to the Sunshine Law is required. At no time will this position replicate or duplicate duties the supervisors are required to perform themselves, but will aid in the effective functioning of this elected agency through communication, research, and coordination. The board meets once a month at the Duval County Extension Office. All other meetings are available via Zoom teleconference. All meetings are noticed and open to the public.
Note: This position has a 60-day trial period.
Send resume and letter of interest to DSWCD Board of Supervisors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline: April 16, 2021
Jacksonville, Florida – The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) announced today it was awarded an urban agriculture conservation grant through a partnership with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to boost technical capacity nationwide.
The DSWCD was one of 20 conservation districts across 14 states to receive funding. The $50,000 grant will provide initial funding for Regeneration Park, a green infrastructure and community stewardship project focused on demonstrating urban agriculture, cultivating environmental stewardship and empowering residents to build with nature for social, economic and environmental health. The project, located on the west side of Jacksonville’s urban core, will transform half an acre of currently unused public land into an ecological demonstration site along the S-Line link of Groundwork Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail near the Sugar Hill Mosaic. The project will be situated less than a mile from the recently completed EPA cleanup activities at the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters Superfund site and the DSWCD has been working closely with the City of Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation department to develop an appropriate plan to regenerate the associated soils and enhance the affiliated community.
“The District is committed to regenerating ecosystems in our affected neighborhoods”, said Jennifer Casey, DSWCD Chair. “We are thrilled that the Regeneration Park project was funded by NACD and will bring technical assistance from soil scientists, farmers and conservationists directly to residents right where they live and work.”
The project also features a bioswale installation, the creation of a pollinator habitat and a series of educational workshops. The UF/IFAS Duval County Extension, the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board, Groundwork Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper, NativeJax, and Jacksonville Youth Works have provided support to the project.
NACD and NRCS established the Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative in 2016 to help conservation districts and their partners provide much-needed technical assistance for community-oriented agricultural projects in both urban and rural contexts. This is the fifth round of funding with grants totaling $5.6 million for 122 projects across 35 states.
About the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District: For over 67 years, under the authority created by the Soil Conservation Act passed by the Florida Legislature in 1937, the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District has promoted responsible management and conservation of natural resources by delivering conservation technology and education to local landowners and users and promoting the wise use of land and best management practices that will conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County.
About the NACD: The National Association of Conservation Districts is the non-profit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state associations and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit: www.nacdnet.org.
About the USDA NRCS: The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service is a major partner of soil and water conservation districts, nation-wide. Since the Dust Bowl of the 1930's, the NRCS (formerly SCS) has worked with conservation districts throughout the US to help landowners and land users, as well as Federal, State, Tribal, Community groups, and local units of government plan and implement conservation practices, where appropriate, to effectively and positively address the associated natural resource concerns.
For our March Volunteer of the Month, we would like to recognize Nassau Senior Forester James (Jim) Tootle. Jim is an avid supporter of the Fred B. Miller, Jr. Regional Envirothon and has mentored hundreds of high school students in environmental science as they have participated in our annual competition. His dedication as a friend of the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District and his willingness to volunteer each year do not go unnoticed! We are grateful that he works hard to impart to the next generation his hard-earned wisdom from his many years as a county forester.
More about Jim: