For the past 14 years running, the Bonita Bay Community Association has proudly boasted the elite status of being named an Audubon Certified Cooperative Sanctuary. The Audubon program concerns itself with five key environmental components that form the basis of their educational materials and serve as focal points for achieving certification status; Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Water and Resource Management and finally, Outreach and Education.
According to Jessica Lotus, Director of Sustainable Community Programs for Audubon International, “We were pleased that you (the Bonita Bay Community Association) had success with so many projects, including your Hurricane Irma recovery efforts; the speed with which you were able to clear roads was impressive – and a testament to the dedication of your grounds maintenance team.”
The process by which the BBCA maintains its highly esteemed status involves many strategic layers of managed data and processes. For the past three years (since the last certification was issued) the BBCA grounds maintenance team has prioritized the restoration of lake banks (40 onsite lakes are the responsibility of the BBCA and other lakes are shared with the Bonita Bay Club) with the overall goal of making lake banks safe for residents, and to stabilize from erosion.
Bonita Bay has roughly 345 acres that are intensively maintained, while approximately 1300 acres remain in a natural state and act as wildlife habitat areas, with over 60 species having been identified on the property.
“Bonita Bay is highly in tune with the environment – which is a main daily focus for our team,” says Bill Lynn, Director of Community Maintenance Operations for the BBCA. “We have a dedicated crew that works on removing invasive exotic plants and shrubs from our natural area, and replaces them with native items. In natural areas, dead trees are only removed if they present a hazard. If not, they are left as bird roosts and homes.”
Since 2011, when the residents of Bonita Bay began managing the property from the developer, the BBCA Board of Directors have been active supporters in the ongoing certification process. As stated by Chris Corrie, Board President, “This program is important to our association. We – as a community – plan and implement sustainable natural resource management practices and receive public recognition through this certification process for sound environmental stewardship.”
Other sustainable environmental best-practices that have been adopted by the BBCA include the use of propane mowers instead of gas, and many light fixtures managed by the association utilize LED light fixtures which offer cost savings and energy reduction. Additionally, the water used on the property for irrigation is a mix of well, reclaimed and rain-water. The grounds team commands members that are ISA Certified Arborists, Certified Pest Control Operators – and the department also employs an FNGLA Certified Horticultural Professional and a wildlife handler.
The Bonita Bay Community Association also proudly affiliates with the (Anne) Macias Wildlife Society of Bonita Bay and Florida Gulf Coast University to host bi-annual educational sessions with education student interns, sharing valuable wildlife information that is then transformed into lessons that are taught in local primary classrooms. “This is not an easy certification to achieve. It takes a committed team to get recertified year after year; a huge thank you to Cindy (Gibson) and Katie (Walters) for their work on getting this accomplished,” notes Wilson Cypher, Assistant Director of Community Maintenance Operations for the BBCA.
The final puzzle pieces that complete the recertification process derive directly from the Bonita Bay Resident Clubs and Committees which are perfectly aligned in the culture of Audubon; Cruising Club (hosts biannual river clean-up projects), Nature Club (offers educational and environmental programs and local field trips to places of interest), Garden Club (plays an integral part in the maintenance of the BBCA Butterfly Garden), and the Fishing Club (hosts monthly meetings featuring local recognized guides for members to learn about local waters and the fish in and around Bonita Bay).
Congratulations Bonita Bay!
To review the digital publications that were submitted in order to achieve recertified status, please click links below:
Written by Katie Walters