A. Marek, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL and Y. Zhuang, UF/IFAS Extension, Central District, Apopka, FL.
Situation: The projected population of Marion County is expected to reach over 411,000 people in 2025. With increasing urban development, Marion County must meet the growing demand for fresh water. To help mitigate the overuse of water for irrigation, an innovative new program was developed to immerse Marion County residents into nature to learn about Florida’s water and how to protect it with Florida-Friendly Landscaping.
Methods: In October and November of 2019, 28 residents partook in the Go Springs & Get Wet program at the Rainbow River in Dunnellon, FL. Participants received presentations on Florida’s water resources and an introduction to Florida-Friendly Landscaping before they were led on a guided kayak tour of the Rainbow River. After kayaking, participants filled out program evaluations.
Results: Over both days, 100% of participants said the information they received was very helpful, and that their understanding of the importance of protecting Florida’s water and of FFL had improved. Additionally, as a result of attending the class 69% said they will fertilize wisely, 97% will water efficiently, and 100% said they will share information with others.
Conclusion: With grant funding provided by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Go Springs & Get Wet program proved to be a successful and effective way to educate homeowners about Florida’s water and Florida-Friendly Landscaping by immersing them with the very resource that is trying to be protected. Many of the participants expressed that this was not only their first time at a Florida spring, it was also their first time kayaking. Through this program, participants gained greater knowledge about Florida’s natural resources and it allowed them the opportunity to formulate their own positive attitudes toward those same resources which research indicates is a critical step toward the adoption of behavior change.