Students Partner with Veterans, Civic Organizations to Create Microforest at Nathan Benderson Park


Twenty student volunteers from the Suncoast Science Center’s Student Community Innovation Program (SCIP) are partnering with a trio of civic and environmental organizations to design, implement and promote a microforest to be planted at Nathan Benderson Park.

The three organizations coming together as SURF — which stands for Sarasota Urban ReForesters — are Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund, Rotary Club of Sarasota Bay, and Solutions to Avoid Red Tide. The park’s nonprofit operator, Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, is also a partner.

Microforest Details

Microforests are low maintenance, small-scale forests that transfer carbon from the atmosphere into the soil and filter water pollutants. As a result, the organizers say, microforests have the potential to combat climate change and foster a habitat that is great for wildlife and welcoming for humans. A community component of the project will post updates on the microforest’s progress, and provide an educational tool to encourage environmentally-conscious practices.

“The microforest project at Nathan Benderson Park is especially exciting because it harnesses the expertise and leadership of several of Sarasota’s important non-profits, and combines it with the creative energies of college and high school interns in a program offered by the Suncoast Science Center,” states Charles Reith, a member of SURF serving as a mentor for the SCIP student volunteers.

The idea of a microforest originated from the Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund. Since then, SURF created its first microforest at Celery Fields. The Nathan Benderson Park microforest will be the partnership’s second.

The microforest project, its organizers say, will deliver broad benefits to the local environment, community, and the SCIP volunteers involved. Aside from the microforest’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere and filter water pollutants, the organizations plan for it to be an enjoyable, new natural space in the park, serving as a reminder for greener decisions in the future. To build real-world skills, SCIP students are mentored by professionals in engineering, horticulture and communications. Those skills include critical thinking, communication, project and time management, and numerous technical skills.

The project, which continues through the summer of 2021, will involve volunteers at Nathan Benderson Park. To sign up for the first volunteer event on July 17, visit HERE. Check out @surfmicroforest on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the microforest project and to learn about future volunteer dates.


The microforest project at Nathan Benderson Park is made possible with the support of Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund Inc., Gulf Coast Community Foundation and The Floyd C. Johnson and Flo Singer Johnson Foundation.

About the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab

The Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded with the mission to inspire and support tomorrow’s innovators through experiential learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Through its fabrication lab and innovative programs, the Suncoast Science Center encourages people of all ages to explore ideas, build skills and confidence, and become lifelong learners. To learn more, visit the Suncoast Science website or connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

About Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund and Sarasota Urban ReForesters (SURF)

Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that helps veterans in multiple ways and works to promote national security, including projects to counteract the threat of global warming. FLVCS Fund has helped veterans find housing, access services and support, and gain employment skills; it also provides major funding for Sarasota Urban Re-Forestation (SURF) projects. The SURF partnership planted and maintains a microforest at the Celery Fields Park in Sarasota; a second microforest is being developed at Nathan Benderson Park. For more information, visit the website.

About SANCA at Nathan Benderson Park

Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates Inc. (SANCA) is a not-for-profit 501c3 business created to manage Nathan Benderson Park (NBP), a community/public asset and world-class, multi-use sports venue. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for our community and be an economic generator for our region. SANCA’s primary purpose is to develop and promote NBP as a world-class event center, team training site and Sarasota County park, while providing outreach programs through recreation, safety training, education and volunteering as a service to our community. For more information, go HERE.

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

For more than 25 years, together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has transformed our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of nearly 1,000 families, individuals, businesses, and organizations that have established charitable funds here. Together, we have invested over $425 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at the organization’s website.

Photos Courtesy of Suncoast Science Center

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