As Florida’s largest urban park, Oleta River State Park receives more than 500,000 visitors each year, and, until now, has seen a need for extra attention in order to keep it in top condition.
On Saturday, March 15, that attention came in the form of more than 1,000 volunteers associated with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), who spent the day restoring the beloved kayaking, mountain biking, beach, and picnicking site.
The project, RCL’s 17th annual “Get Involved, Volunteer Everywhere,” or “GIVE,” event, emphasized reusing and recycling materials, illuminating RCL’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
“As one of the largest employers in South Florida, we are committed to supporting and helping our local communities,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “And with more than 1,000 employees, friends and families turning out to help, it's clear that giving back is important to all of us at Royal Caribbean.”
The volunteers enthusiastically mulched trails; planted native Florida shrubs, plants, and flowers, including some to provide shade and prevent shoreline erosion; prepared a meadow to become a butterfly garden; painted and preserved wood structures and bridges; held a bayfront cleanup; and installed a playground.
Mulch was removed from one area and spread in another, as part of the project’s emphasis on reusing materials. Environmentally non-damaging paint was sourced locally, recycled and recyclable food service materials were used, and volunteers were vigilant about recycling during the event. A coastal cleanup effort both eliminated waste from the shoreline and educated participants in the importance of keeping natural areas pristine.
In a hard day’s work, volunteers transformed the park’s grounds with more than 3,200 gallons of environmentally-friendly paint products for 22 buildings and surrounding areas; and with 13,061 plants, trees, and shrubs. They restored two trails damaged by erosion and refinished a fishing pier and bridges with marine-grade, non-invasive coating, in addition to building a playground and removing and recycling litter from 1,555 linear feet of the park's shoreline.
“Volunteers are important to Florida’s state parks,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service. “This project comes when many parks are ‘spring cleaning.’ We appreciate the employees of Royal Caribbean Cruises and their dedication to the environment.“
Oleta River State Park is located on Biscayne Bay in the busy Miami metropolitan area. While it offers a variety of recreational opportunities, the park is best known for miles of off-road bicycling trails, ranging from novice trails to challenging trails for experienced bicyclists. Along the Oleta River, at the north end of the park, a large stand of beautiful mangrove forest preserves native South Florida plants and wildlife. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle the river to explore this amazing natural area. Swimming from a 1,200-foot sandy beach and saltwater fishing are also popular activities. Picnic tables and grills are available. Nine pavilions can be rented for a fee; the largest one has electricity. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, and bicycles. For overnight visits, the park has rustic, air-conditioned cabins and a youth campground for organized groups. Oleta River State Park is located in North Miami.
GIVE Day unites Royal Caribbean employees, their families, friends, vendors and business partners to assist non-profit organizations and improve the quality of life in their local communities.
The March 15 event was enhanced by support from Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, the nonprofit Friends of Oleta River State Park, and Stericycle.
Now in its 17th year, GIVE Day is an example of how more than 40,000 RCL employees give back to their communities around the world, by donating thousands of volunteer hours toward environmental improvement, neighborhood development, civic drives, and disaster recovery. GIVE Day events are also being planned to take place in Wichita, Kansas; Springfield, Oregon; and several international offices throughout the year.