Volunteers pitch in to help clean wetland in restoration project

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More than 50 volunteers from Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay joined the South Florida Water Management District in cleaning and restoring the communities’ sensitive wetland ecosystem in June as part of the Coastal Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay Habitat Restoration project.

The project area is located between SW 176th Street and SW 195th Street east of Old Cutler Road and extends out to Biscayne Bay.

The volunteers planted dozens of pines, palmettos and other native plants and grasses. They also began work on a rustic trail through the project site that will expand as the restoration continues. Besides the actual site improvement, it is hoped that volunteer workdays serve to involve the community in local habitat conservation efforts.

Cutler Bay Councilmember Roger Coriat said he thinks the project is well worth the effort.

“In my frequent visits, I have been able to see the return of native plants to these wetlands,” Coriat said. “Wildflowers are blooming on their own, and the site has attracted butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.”

He said some of the many benefits of habitat restoration include improved accessibility and visibility, recreation outlet for potential birders, hikers and naturalists, and improved habitat for many different species of native birds, butterflies and other desirable wildlife.

“I am proud of the dedicated efforts of our residents and neighbors, who have given many hours to this project. It has been a pleasure volunteering alongside them,” he added.

The work was coordinated by the Old Cutler Bay Habitat Restoration Project Partnership. The Institute for Regional Conservation and the National Park Service have partnered with the Tropical Audubon Society of Florida, Palmetto Bay Village Center, South Florida Water Management District, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Atlantic Coast Joint Venture to begin restoring more than 370 acres of migratory bird habitat along Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County.

Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn said he was pleased with the project and the volunteers.

“The Coastal Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay Habitat Restoration project has been a long-time committed effort of love for so many people,” Flinn said. “I had been out there a few times, but not nearly enough. I am so impressed not just on the number of hours spent, but also the leadership involved in recruiting fellow volunteers. I met a couple from as far away as Germany who came out and devoted an afternoon to clearing and planting.”

Mayor Flinn said that Palmetto Bay did chip in a few months back and assisted the hard working volunteers by providing a water tank for watering the new plantings.

“I look forward to extending the Habitat Restoration to the north side of 184,” Flinn said. “The fight continues to save the 22 acres presently part of the Palmetto Bay Village Center, directly on Old Cutler Road, from development. It is in litigation at the present time. This is important land to save. I remain as committed as ever to this cause — protecting our quality of life and our native surroundings.”

The Partnership was awarded the U.S. Small Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division of Bird Habitat in 2013 to achieve goals outlined in the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989.

As part of the restoration efforts there is a gofundme campaign to raise funds for the next round of the restoration to purchase trees, plants, and landscape elements. The link is: www.gofundme.com/livablecutler.

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