Community Briefs 091318

Posted 9/12/18

College launches speaker seriesORANGE PARK – SJR State kicks off speaker series with Clay County’s Emergency Management Director John WardThe Bachelor of Applied Science program and the …

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Community Briefs 091318


College launches speaker series

ORANGE PARK – SJR State kicks off speaker series with Clay County’s Emergency Management Director John Ward

The Bachelor of Applied Science program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at St. Johns River State College’s Orange Park campus will host Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward on Sept. 24 from 6-7 p.m.

As part of the speaker series, Ward will discuss how the areas of law enforcement, healthcare and emergency management operate together during various categories of emergency situations.

The event, which is free and open to the community, will be held in the D building, room D-14, on SJR State’s Orange Park campus located at 283 College Dr.

For more information, contact (904) 276-6883 or

St. Johns River’s dissolved oxygen levels improve for first time in years

JACKSONVILLE – The 11th annual State of the River Report, an analysis of the health of the Lower St. Johns River Basin, reveals several areas of improvement, some the first time in years, but shows trends that some indicators have worsened, suggesting that continued monitoring and research of the river are needed.

Trends from the latest River Report highlight several positives, including dissolved oxygen levels in the tributaries changing for the better in the first time in many years and improving total phosphorus levels in the saltwater reach of the river’s mainstem. Other improvements to the mainstem include decreased concentrations of heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc, are also getting better in the mainstem, while conditions for three critical wildlife species – the bald eagle, wood stork and Florida manatee – have also improved.

“Dissolved oxygen in the tributaries is complex and while the levels have tended to be critically low at times, particularly during the hot summers, they are up now,” said Gerry Pinto, associate research scientist at the Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute. “Each tributary is different because of the surrounding land use, flow rate, depth and salinity, which can vary depending on the time of day. But the good news is that in the last three years, minimum dissolved oxygen levels in the tributaries have been improving and most recently, for the first time, exceeded the freshwater criterion and are on par with the marine/estuarine criterion.”

Although there are some positive indicators, there are still some concerns for the river’s health. Over the last 20 years, salinity has gradually risen and is expected to continue its increase, with growing potential negative impacts on submerged aquatic vegetation and the aquatic life that depends upon it for habitat and food sources.

Nonnative species have also risen to 87 total species, up from 57 in 2008, with a key concern of spreading lionfish as well as Cuban treefrogs and their impacts on our native ecosystem. Plus, wetlands continue to be lost to development and while the losses tend to have the greatest impacts locally, those impacts aren’t altogether realized from a regional perspective.

“Improvement in dissolved oxygen in the tributaries is encouraging. But the severity of this year's algal blooms tells us that nutrient levels remain too high. Even though phosphorus levels are improving in the long-term, short-term and localized events still boost algae growth,” said Dr. Radha Pyati, former UNF chemistry chair and professor who is now dean of the College of the Sciences and Mathematics at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Pyati will continue to be a part of the research team for the annual report.

Other indicators remain largely unchanged. For example, chlorophyll a, an indicator of harmful algal blooms, remains elevated and widespread, aside from limited data. Fecal coliform levels in the tributaries also are significantly above both previously used and newly developed water-quality criteria, while submerged aquatic vegetation experienced recent regrowth; the long-term trend is uncertain, and the low number of sampling sites increases this uncertainty. Additionally, the River Report shows that most finfish and invertebrate species aren’t in danger of overfishing, with the exception of channel and white catfish, which both have the potential to be overfished in the near future.

This year’s River Report includes a special section on applications of the Report to K-12 students in Duval County Public Schools, providing an important resource for teachers, such as lesson plans, to make crucial connections between science and the students’ environment, which helps make science more concrete and engages student in real-world problem solving. Additionally, materials can be modified to support science learning at multiple curricular levels.

A presentation on the findings will take place today, Friday, Sept. 14, during the 2018 Environmental Symposium, “Investment, Innovation and Action—Leading the Way to a Sustainable Future,” scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Adam W. Herbert University Center, Building 43, in the Grand Banquet Hall, Room 1044, on the UNF campus. The River Report and a brochure, a quick reference guide on river health and ways the public can help the river, will be available at as well.

Annual Read with Trees slated

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Light pours through tree branches and colors the pages of a book with webs shaped of white.

There’s stories being read among the trees, and a park ranger leading a scavenger hunt in the

Distance – children animated, while frantically searching the grounds of Gold Head Branch State

Park for the items on their lists.

Read with Trees, a program originally imagined with the Keystone Heights Branch of the Clay

County Public Library System, brings reading and nature together in a family-friendly, interactive event. The Melrose Public Library continues to partner annually with Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park rangers to read to kids and teach them about the outdoors. This year’s event will take place on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.

Authors Donna Henderson and Fawn Rising will read their interactive children’s books, while

library representatives will lead attendees in telling stories and making crafts. The Under the

Porch Singers will sing along to campfire songs, while our local park rangers will host a

ranger-led outdoor activity.

Arrive at the park with your library card or gently used book donations on the day of the event

for free park entry.

Contact the park at (352) 473-4701 or the library (352) 475-1237 or visit 312 Wynnwood Ave. in Melrose, behind the Post Office.

State Attorney’s Office now accepts credit cards for public records

JACKSONVILLE – In an effort to better serve the public, the State Attorney’s Office now can accept credit cards as payment for public records. The office is the first in Florida to offer this option.

“Both the public and the media expressed a common desire to expand payment options for public records,” said State Attorney Melissa Nelson. “Providing this convenience is consistent with our continued commitment to transparency.”

Credit cards will be accepted through the online portal for public records. In addition, the office will continue to accept checks, money orders, or exact cash for payment for public records.

The expansion is part of the overall revamping of the Public Records Division since Nelson took office last year. In May, Nelson appointed Miriam Nelson as the office’s records custodian. Since that time, the division has doubled efficiency and output, shortened timeframes for outstanding requests, and improved customer service and access to policy information.

For more information on the division, visit

New truck parking availability system to its 511 advanced traveler information system

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Transportation has added a truck parking availability system service to its Florida 511 Advanced Traveler Information System This new service provides real-time information to commercial truck drivers about available parking spaces in designated rest stops on major Florida highways and interstates. Truckers can now know in advance where open parking spaces are as they journey along Florida’s major roads.

The announcement of the truck parking feature coincides with National Truck Driver Appreciation Week which is Sept. 9 through 15. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week provides an opportunity for America to take the time to honor all professional truck drivers.

Recently activated, the FL511 truck parking feature lists available truck parking spaces at rest area facilities on I-4 near Orlando and on I-95 near Palm Coast, Titusville and Palm Bay. When fully operational, this new feature will provide truck parking availability throughout the state on major roadways.

To find the feature, visit the FL511 website home page at, click the Traffic dropdown menu, and click Truck Parking. On the mobile app, go to the Traffic Map on the lower right of the home screen, click Traffic, and then click Truck Parking.

FL511 Truck Parking Availability System Page 2

The FL511 mobile app, available for free at the Apple App Store or at Google Play, features an interactive map showing traffic speeds and incidents on roads around the user’s location. One of the most important safety features of the app is Drive Mode, allowing motorists to use the app in a hands-free manner.

Additional ways to receive real-time traffic and travel information includes following one or more of the statewide, regional or roadway-specific Twitter feeds (#FL511), such as @FL511_State. For more information, please visit

Groups urge lawmakers to shift funds for school safety

ORLANDO – In light of recent information that $58 million dollars remains in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program fund that will go unused if not reallocated, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and education partners call on the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to agree to disburse these funds for districts to hire School Resource Officers when they meet on September 14th. The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program is part of the larger Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act signed by Governor Rick Scott at the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Local districts statewide are struggling to pay for school security while the $58 million that could be used to hire police officers for schools remains locked down in Tallahassee,” said Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association. “The members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission have the power to move the money to districts but have not yet acted. From the outside looking in, it appears these lawmakers care more about scoring political points than about protecting the children of Florida.”

Currently, 71 out of the 75 Florida school districts need additional school safety funding. If these funds are not allocated soon they will remain mired in Tallahassee, thereby risking the safety of our students, staff, and administrators. Members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission need to act swiftly and re-allocate the Guardian Program funds under the auspices of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools.

“School Resource Officers are trained law enforcement. They are the ones best equipped to handle violence on campus – not school staff or private security guards,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the LWV of Florida. “We encourage the Legislative Budget Commission to reallocate the funds necessary for hiring more SROs for our schools.”

“Governor Scott has asked each member of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to re-allocate these unused funds.” said Linda Kearschner, Florida PTA president. “The Legislative Budget Commission needs to listen and act. These funds need to be used to protect our children this year.”


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