Page 9 - BREC's 2019 Annual Report
P. 9

  Playing with a Purpose
Measuring the Benefits of BREC services
Through the Coastal Roots Program, BREC, LSU and local schools are waging a battle against invasive species. Students grow their own trees and plant them where we have conducted invasive species removals to help restore native habitat or in open spaces we are trying to reforest. In 2019, 300 student volunteers planted 1,200 trees in BREC parks. Planting areas are monitored to ensure native species win the battle against invasives and to date, 10 acres were restored to native habitat with over 7,000 trees.
BREC provided Fit Bits at all 2019 recreation camps and created a competition to measure which camp took the most steps. The total was 27,787,677 steps. We shared the information with parents in e-blasts and on social media to help them understand the wellness benefit of camps.
To strengthen conservation efforts, BREC created the Green Force, a trained volunteer group dedicated to creating healthier and more native natural areas in EBR Parish. The program works with the Louisiana Master Naturalists local chapter to provide volunteer opportunities to graduates. In three years, volunteer hours increased from 389 to 4,156 in 2019. New volunteers complete an 8-hour training course with existing members taking a recertification course. Other park systems in the state are now replicating this program.
  Creating Solutions Through Innovation
BREC’s 24-hour Bioblitz event uses citizen scientists to catalogue species in conservation areas. In 2019, BREC invited schools and incorporated Louisiana’s new science curriculum into the data collection process allowing students to learn from professional scientists. Using the free iNaturalist app, participants recorded 1,205 species in BREC parks, 20 of which are considered rare or have never been documented in EBR Parish. This information creates a baseline of data for conservation management plans and informs interpretative signage to help visitors understand the biodiversity of BREC parks.
To increase vital STEM knowledge, BREC’s Zoo provides a free program called Project ARK (Animals Reaching Kids) in which the Zoo Mobile visits schools throughout the parish with a large percentage of at-risk students. In 2018, the program was expanded to include students from grades 1-3 as well as 4-5. STEM concepts are addressed while showing students real-world application of these concepts in Biology. Teachers pre-tested 3,700 students’ knowledge and perceptions about animals. Results showed a 45% shift to a positive attitude toward snakes and other animals.
BREC worked with students from Belaire High School’s Creative Sciences and Art Magnet Program to redesign a neighborhood park. The students presented a master plan to the BREC Commission after hosting a well-attended public forum. The project includes an enhanced playground, new pavilions, larger restrooms, renewable energy displays including solar panels to energize flood lights and pathway lighting, solar-powered charging posts and an electric car charging station.
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