Port Everglades is inviting area residents to attend a tree planting ceremony at the port on Friday, April 25 in celebration of Arbor Day and the start of an extensive mangrove enhancement project at the port.

Participating residents will receive a Florida native plant to bring home for their own Florida-friendly landscaping. Attendees who do not have a Port-issued identification badge must present a driver’s license or other government issued photo ID at the security checkpoint into the Port.

Port Everglades is partnering with NatureScape Broward to celebrate the national tree-planting holiday as a way to kick-off its upland mangrove enhancement project, which is the first part of a larger construction project to add new cargo berths at the Port. Attendees will have a choice of native lantana, native plumbago and gillardia plants while supplies last.

“The mangrove project grew from a serious need for more berth space for cargo ships, into an environmental improvement on Port property and at West Lake Park,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director Steven Cernak. “We are creating new wetlands at the port by planting mangroves upland, and extending an existing dock area to accommodate more ships. It is a win-win solution for the Port and the environment.”

Port Everglades is berth constrained and additional dock space is needed for cargo ships, as the port continues to be Florida’s leader for containerized cargo volumes. The Southport Turning Notch Extension project will lengthen the existing deep-water turn-around area for cargo ships from 900 feet to 2,400 feet, which will allow for up to five new cargo berths. Super Post-Panamax gantry cranes will also be added to serve the existing Southport container berths. The crane rails will be extended to the full length of the extended Turning Notch berth to utilize the existing cranes. The total cost of the Southport Turning Notch Extension is approximately $182 million and will be paid through port-generated revenue and State of Florida funding.

The Upland Mangrove Enhancement project is a critical part of the Southport Turning Notch Extension because it includes replacing 8.7 acres of existing habitat in the Port with a 16.5-acre upland enhancement area of approximately 70,000 new mangrove and wetland plants, as well as completing a number of environmental improvements in West Lake Park.

Port officials worked closely with port users, the environmental community and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to develop the plan for the new mangrove habitat.

More than 100,000 mangrove plants have been growing as part of the $15.8 million project. After the site preparation and planting is completed later this year, there is a one-year “trending for success” waiting period before the FDEP will approve removing the existing mangrove plants, which is anticipated in late 2015.

Bergeron Land Development is the construction manager for the Upland Mangrove Enhancement project, which is based on a design by DeRose Design Consulting. Earth Balance Corporation is growing the mangroves at two different sites so the plants will be ready to go into the ground once the site work is completed. The Broward County Public Works Department’s Seaport Engineering and Construction Division is overseeing the Upland Mangrove Enhancement and Southport Turning Notch Extension projects.