By Josie Fuentes
Despite the warm temperatures, local supporters were not deterred from showing up to celebrate the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) 66th anniversary. Local sponsors, community advocates, city council members and members of the public were all present at the rooftop deck of Intuition Ale Works in the downtown Urban Core. Highlights from the evening included delicious catering from Blk Shp, words of acknowledgement from the board of supervisors and a special guest presentation by the St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman (pictured below).
The Duval SWCD was formed in 1953 to assist local landowners and land users in making the best use of local natural resources; to encourage a more positive attitude towards agriculturally-related activities; and to stimulate more prosperous and lasting agricultural enterprises.
This year marks the 66th anniversary of that establishment, and it was the goal of the supervisors to begin a new celebratory tradition. With an aim at bringing more community engagement into the district’s network, the board worked to create an event that highlights the organization’s commitment to the community.
In her speech, Rinaman stressed the importance of education, community engagement and local activism in protecting the local environment and watersheds. “We applaud the Duval SWCD for its 66 years of conservation leadership, education and support to protect our natural resources, including the St. Johns River,” she said.
Kendal Schmidt, a middle school teacher at the Foundation Academy, was this year’s recipient of the Conservation Teacher of the Year award and the $250.00 cash prize. Her innovative approach to teaching environmental responsibility has led to her students’ participation in projects such as the annual Joe B. Forshee, Jr. Speech and Poster Contest and the Monarch Waystation, as well as activities that include aquaponic farming and composting.