Not far from the urban streets of North Miami lies a unique phenomenon where three Florida ecosystems exist in one small area.
It is in fact not a scientific wonder, but an artistic one, for these ecosystems are splashed across the portico of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Miami office. The mural depicts a transition from cypress marsh to shoreline to ocean and includes various flora and fauna of each ecosystem. Also on the building’s grounds is a newly planted native butterfly garden containing an assortment of indigenous plants.
Girl Scout Caitlin Kaloostian, from Palmetto Bay’s Troop 305, began the proj- ect in order to achieve the Gold Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Girl Scout.
Kaloostian is a junior at Miami Palmetto High School and holds a deep passion for the environment. She believes “the protec- tion and preservation of our environment is essential for the welfare of humanity.”
Kaloostian decided on this project to promote community awareness.
“I just thought where better to place the mural and butterfly garden than the agency whose officers dedicate themselves every- day to safeguard our state’s fish, wildlife, and environment.”
Kaloostian served as project coordinator and elicited the aid of two fellow high school students, Stephanie Raudales and Steffi Yavar. Both girls attend Robert Morgan Educational Center and are in that school’s magnet art program.
“We look forward to the challenge,” Yavar said before the project was fully underway. The project took months of preparation and many hour-long trips to and from the FWC office. “We would paint for a good six hours every Saturday for almost three months” Raudales said.
Kaloostian obtained funding for the project by holding fundraising events such as garage sales. The plants for the garden were purchased from the proceeds but Oleta River State Park employees donated the mulch. The garden was planted by Kaloostian, two of her friends (a Boy Scout and another member of Troop 305), and FWC Lt. Manny Pomares.
The FWC conducted a dedication ceremony a few weeks ago to unveil the mural and garden. Dignitaries and officers attended the ceremony. There, Caitlin dedicated the artwork to FWC and thanked all who assisted with the project.
“I admit, I had my doubts at first, but the mural developed exquisitely and the gar- den turned out beautifully,” said Maj. Alfredo Escanio, regional commander. “This project truly represents what our agency stands for.”