Orange Park to inform residents about dangers of toxic air potatoes

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/18/23

ORANGE PARK – Members of the Orange Park Environmental Quality Board agreed to craft a public flier/brochure informing town residents of the dangerous environmental effects caused by the air potato …

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Orange Park to inform residents about dangers of toxic air potatoes

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Members of the Orange Park Environmental Quality Board agreed to craft a public flier/brochure informing town residents of the dangerous environmental effects caused by the air potato at its meeting on Jan. 12.

The fast-growing, toxic plant species that are native to Florida have become an attractive nuisance in both public parks and private backyards.

The invasive species are poisonous to humans and many animals.

The air potato is capable of killing trees by suffocating them and blocking sunlight and can displace native plant species and disrupt natural processes like fire and water flow. The plant has been listed as one of Florida’s most invasive plant species since 1993, according to the UF-IFAS Center For Aquatic and Invasive Plants.

A motion was approved at Town Council’s most recent session on Dec. 6 to allow for public information to be distributed about the invasive plant.

On Jan. 11, the EQB agreed on a timeline to roll out the flier/brochure.

First, EQB members verbally agreed to set a deadline for the flier’s first draft.

The board’s five members will be required to send information, photos and any other items that they would like to see added to the flier to Stephen Smith, Economic and Community Development Director, by Thursday, Jan. 19.

The finalized details of the brochure will be hammered out at the EQB’s next meeting on Feb. 9. EQB members unanimously agreed that they would like to donate the vast majority of the session to hammer out final details.

By meeting this deadline, board members would allow Smith to send the finished product to Emily Dockery, Events and Recreation Coordinator, with time to spare. If all goes as planned, Dockery would have at least two weeks to organize and print the materials.

The flier will warn residents of the harmful effects of the air potato would be included in the town’s March utility bills. That would allow all town residents to get a closer look at the issue.

The board will seek to create a half to one-page document, which would feature photographs and quick-hit bullet point-style information about the invasive plant species.

In other news, the EQB held discussions on fencing and security of town parks, with board member Michael Wallwork supporting keeping all town parks open 24 hours a day. Wallwork would also prefer for barriers and fences to be removed at the parks, if possible.

Wallwork cited San Diego as one template. The city’s zoning code bans barriers and fences, and parks are open at all hours, Wallwork said.

With after-hours criminal activities happening in some town parks, which are tucked into neighborhoods bordering private homes, other officials demonstrated opposition to the idea. On Dec. 28, for example, 18-year-old Drew Allan Wright III was shot to death at the Orange Park Athletic Association basketball courts.

EQB board members said they may talk about the plan with the Parks and Recreation Department at its next dual meeting.

The board also passed a motion, 4-0, to create an orientation session for EQB board members so they could re-familiarize themselves with the charter. The training session will take place at the EQB’s meeting in March.

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