‘Community forest’ dedicated
Carrie D. Robinson Littleton Elementary is the first school in the nation to dedicate its own “Community Forest.”
Five acres of growth, adjacent to the school in North Fort Myers, is now being maintained and preserved by students of Littleton Elementary following a five-year management plan designed by Susan Hassett, an environmental science advisor at the school, and Mike Weston from the Florida Department of Forestry.
Students put in more than 70 hours clearing trails and brush, and in December 2009 the Division of Forestry conducted a prescribed burn to rid the area of dead vegetation. Ultimately, the forest plays home to dozens of gopher turtles — a threatened species — and 150 newly planted trees and shrubs that are native to the state.
“The students have been working very hard,” said Principal Monica Broughton. “There were days when students didn’t have to go to school and they came in to work on the trails.”
There are 24 students in the school’s Environmental Club who are credited with creating the “Community Forest,” said Hassett, and for years to come it will be open to other environmental classes wanting to study Florida’s natural habitat.
“We have a five-year management plan in place as a community forest,” she said. “Part of the plan is that children in the community keep learning.”
Not only did students and guests at Littleton Elementary celebrate the dedication of the forest, but Thursday was also the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah attended the dedication and explained how the county has similarly set aside 65,000 acres of protected land.
“This is an extraordinary day, you have made my day and I can’t thank you enough,” said Judah. “You are providing a habitat for a threatened species. No tract of land is too small to protect.”
The color guard team from Mariner High presented the colors and other speakers included Dr. Elinor Scricca, member of the Lee County School Board, who congratulated the students for founding the first “Community Forest” in the nation.
Both the Littleton Elementary Chorus and Littleton Boy Scouts Troop participated in the ceremony by performing songs live and reciting the pledge of allegiance, respectively.
After a ribbon cutting by guests and members of the school’s Environmental Club, groups took personal tours of the forest. Groups of three to four Environmental Club students led guests across the property, talking about the prescribed burns and gopher holes.