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Dover, Tennessee—First Bloom, launched in 2007 by then NPF Honorary Chair, Mrs. Laura Bush, was created to honor the conservation legacy of Lady Bird Johnson. This national conservation education program sponsored by the National Park Foundation reaches out to youth teaching them about the science and use of native plants in landscaping and gardening projects. Furthermore, the program encourages them to protect the environment in America's celebrated national parks located in their own backyards.
Partners in the initiative include the National Park Service, the LadyBirdJohnsonWildflowerCenter, local Boys and Girls Clubs and youth organizations across the country that reach out to young people in their communities. In 2008, the program was launched in five U.S. cities with an initial $1 million contribution secured by ARAMARK through the Yawkey Foundation. Now, in its second year, the program has expanded to serve 16 national parks in communities across the country.
Park Ranger, Deborah Austin and Stewart County Girl Scout Coordinator, Teresa Earhart, accompanied by her husband Don, participated in First Bloom training at the LadyBirdJohnsonWildlifeCenter in Austin, TX, August 23-27, 2009. The leaders and scouts will work on several landscaping projects within Fort Donelson National Battlefield this coming year including plantings along the walkways in front of the visitor center and adjacent to the newly renovated restroom facility at the picnic area.
The park will kick off the First Bloom program on September 26, 2009, National Public Lands Day. Multiple community groups and volunteers will be assisting park staff in landscaping projects and park maintenance activities. Local girl scouts will participate in seed plantings in compostable ecotainer™ cups and share them with park visitors along with First Bloom program hand outs. The scouts will also learn about the national parks and view a premier of The National Parks, America’s Best Idea, a new film by Ken Burns. PBS stations nationwide will air the complete documentary September 27 – October 2, 2009.
Monthly activities will continue through May 2010 as scouts learn the value of utilizing native plants in landscaping and also about the threats of exotic, invasive species to our ecosystem.