Coastline Restoration Project removes invasive plants, replaces with 500 native plants

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — A new high school program is allowing students to play a big part in restoring Florida’s nature coast. 

"It’s a huge problem here in Florida," said William Lester, Horticulturist and  UF Extension Office for Hernando County.

Lester is referring to invasive plants that don't belong here. 

"I’m sure a lot of people hear about the pythons down in the everglades and the very large invasive animals. Invasive plants are just as big of a problem," said Lester. 

Invasive plants like “Creeping Oxeye” are smothering Florida’s native plants.

"Which is bad for the environment and the grounds and the water, it can destroy it all," said Hernando High School FFA student Hayley Shamblin.

That's why volunteers are working hard at Linda Pedersen Park near Florida’s Nature Coast in Hernando County to remove what doesn’t belong.

And about 20 miles inland, a group of Hernando County High School students have been working all year to add back what does belong. 

They’ve grown 500 native plants in the school’s greenhouse from seedlings

"We had a bunch of people coming out during class and making sure that they were getting plenty of water, and sunlight if they needed sunlight," said Hernando High FFA student Victoria Rivera.

The students will replace the invasive plants with the native plants they worked hard to grow.

"We’ve had some challenges like half the roof of the greenhouse was blown off with Irma. We had to fix it and we’ve had to overcome," said FFA teacher Rick Ahrens. 

"With all these plants, I’m helping the soil, and the air, and the water and the animals," said Shamblin. 

"I like to teach my students that their lives aren’t about them, it's about who they’re helping and what they’re doing for other people," said Ahrens. 

The students plan to plant all 500 native plants at Linda Pedersen Park on Monday afternoon. 

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