Uniting environmental groups in the region to present a stronger voice on concerns such as rampant development and failing sewage infrastructure along the Emerald Coast was one of the main goals expressed by participants. of one Earth Ethics Inc.– virtual meeting hosted on Tuesday.
Based in Fort Walton Beach non-profit organization Earth Ethics works to educate the public and raise awareness of environmental and social issues locally, regionally and globally.
Nearly a dozen people, mostly from nonprofit environmental groups, attended Tuesday’s session. Most of them agreed to continue to meet as a group on a regular basis.
Learn more about Earth Ethics:Protecting Natural Treasures: The group wants your opinion on environmental issues in Okaloosa, Walton
Earth Ethics executive director Mary Gutierrez said she was a former military brat and longtime Panhandle resident who didn’t want the Emerald Coast to become overdeveloped like many parts of central and southern Florida.
In light of the local, continuing, and mostly residential growth boom, Gutierrez said she believes “everyone on this call wants to preserve the beauty of this area.”
She and the other participants agreed that it is essential that local environmental groups help each other while educating transplants, tourists and others about protecting the area’s natural resources.
“The fact is, the natural environment is what draws people to our region of the coast,” said Leigh Moore, executive director of Picturesque Walton.
Wetland Mitigation Credits:Okaloosa County Offsets Impacts of Crestview Bypass on Wetlands
New street tree requirement? :Walton County planning director hints at code changes to force developers to plant more trees
Among other initiatives, Scenic Walton supports the preservation of trees and the tree plantation, landscaping public medians, more and better recycling facilities, reducing waste and burying utility lines.
“A lot of people insist on property rights,” Moore said. “They want to do whatever they want with their own property. But if someone wants to clean up their property and not mitigate stormwater runoff, it affects others.
To better protect the region’s natural resources, small nonprofit groups must work together to “have a bigger voice at the table,” which is often dominated by well-funded/organized corporations and government entities, said Moore.
On another note, she said there are “a few private vendors that charge fees and provide recycling in Walton County, but no, there is no curbside recycling provided by the county. . That says a lot.
Cay Burton, representing the Okaloosa County Democratic Environmental Caucus in Florida, said the caucus supports Florida lawmakers, candidates, legislation and businesses that conserve, protect and enhance the state’s natural resources.
Burton said one of the caucus’ goals was to raise awareness about how the county’s aging and failing sewer infrastructure continues to lead to sewage dumping into bodies of water such as Santa Rosa Sound. .
The group continues to compile data on the dates, locations and amounts of these sewage spills, which show that such occurrences are not uncommon, she said.
The spills “affect beaches and everyone’s health,” Burton said.
Another issue discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was the constant battle with large amounts of litter left behind by visitors and blown up from elsewhere at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.
“We need help with the constant pollution,” said park ranger Thomas Birch.
Besides the litter left by park visitors, Birch said that whenever there was a northerly wind, all the litter from the nearby Walmart parking lot blew into the park and ended up on the beach.
Paul Arthur, President and Director of the EO Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport, offered the use of the 25,000-square-foot environmental education center as a venue for attendees of Tuesday’s meeting, as well as other environmentalists, to join forces.
“Let’s do things that get noticed,” Arthur said. “I have the facilities to meet and make things big.”
The center offers numerous environmental science lessons to more than 100 students each school day.
“We work hard here to try to make an impact” on many students and other people, Arthur said.