Boca Behind the Scenes

  • 31. Boca Raton's Reclaimed Water System Proves to be a "Hole In One"

    Did you know that the City of Boca Raton's Utility Services Department is a 100% reuse facility for reclaimed water? The department was recently recognized for its reclaimed water system as a sustainable resource that has been a success not only nationally but also locally since the early 90s. So what does this exactly have to do with golf? In this episode of Boca Behind the Scenes, Utility Services Director Chris Helfrich and John Creane, General Manager of the award winning Broken Sound Country Club, chat about the In-City Reclamation Irrigation System, how it works and how some of the most prestigious golf courses in the area are benefitting from it.
  • 30. Politics, Precincts and Poll Workers

    With an election year approaching, new voting equipment and ballots will be coming along with it. The City of Boca Raton recently partnered with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office for an open house at Spanish River Library and provided voters with the opportunity to demo the new voting machines and practice on the new ballots. Host, Anne Marie Van Casteren, went "behind the scenes" at the open house to chat with Boca Raton City Clerk, Susan Saxton, and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Wendy Sartory Link, to talk about new upgrades and programs, the importance and why to become a poll worker and what Boca Raton residents will be voting on and where.
  • 29. Ep. 29 - Talk Spooky to Me: Boca Boo Days

    Ghouls and goblins and ghosts; oh my! The City of Boca Raton's Boca Boo Days is one of most anticipated times of the year where Recreation Services facilities and centers host a variety of spooky events, activities, family fun entertainment and even education for all to enjoy. Host, Anne Marie Van Casteren chats with Carter Bogus, Marketing Coordinator for Sugar Sand Park and Stacee Lanze, Special Events Coordinator for Sugar Sand Park, about this month's events, what event goers can expect and a sneak peak into some of the most spooky (and even scary) events. For more information about Boca Boo Days, be sure to visit their website.CONNECT WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website:
  • 28. Ep. 28 - Talking Trash with City Sanitation Services

    On this episode of Boca Behind the Scenes, host, Anne Marie Van Casteren talks some trash with Zach Bihr, Municipal Services Director, Austin Leroy, Sanitation Superintendent and Tony Remige, Fleet Superintendent. Listeners will hear about Sanitation Services and how the department works, the most asked questions from residents, information about the new sanitation service fee and all the new upgrades that will be added to continue to ensure world-class services to the community. CONNECT WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website:
  • 27. Ep. 27 - Getting SMART about Innovation in the City

    On this episode of Boca Behind the Scenes, host, Anne Marie Van Casteren chats with the City's Innovation Specialist, Pedro Moras, and President & CEO of Palm Beach Tech Association, Joe Russo about their upcoming hackathon and other innovative initiatives in the community. The Palm Beach Tech Hackathon is an hour event where participants form teams, vet ideas, create a project, then present their work to an expert panel of judges. The themes this year are Smart Cities and Hurricane Relief, with each project relating in some part to either topic.CONNECT WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website: everyone and welcome to Boca Behind the Scenes a get to know you podcast where we talk to city staff to get details and information about new programs events and projects that are taking place right here in your city. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren Public Relations Specialist with the City's Communications and Marketing Division and as always I am happy to be your host today. Today on the show I'm joined by Pedro Moras our Innovation Strategist thank you for being here today hi glad to be here and then our first ever non city employee Joe Russo President and CEO of Palm Beach Tech Association thank you so much for being here as well yeah thanks for inviting me. This podcast we're going to be talking about innovation and technology within the City of Boca but focusing on this upcoming hackathon and I know Joe last year you came and presented to city council about the hackathon and presented the winning team who actually created an AI bot for the City so do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Last year we held a hackathon at Office Depot which is based here in the City of Boca Raton and for those that don't know the city's history of technology is very vast from IBM being here for fifty years ago to now so we have a lot of tech talent the community so when we put on this hackathon and had over a hundred people attend it just so happened that the winning team built a product for the City of Boca Raton go figure and it worked out very well for us because we wanted to of course share the news of this hackathon with the city and what better way than sharing a little bit about the winning team which obviously gave a way for a city staff and residents to be more connected than ever before so hackathons are always different and people are always coming up with more imaginative ways to do things but yeah what a perfect result and we're hoping this next one will have just as a perfect outcome for the city. Awesome so tell us about this hackathon  I mean I have no idea what it is or how it works  yeah so every time people hear the word hacking their automatic thought process is oh no what happened but hacking is not a degenerative term it's really meant to be hack something to figure it out to work through a problem and what hackathons are doing is taking a group of very smart people all technology oriented and saying here you have twenty four hours to solve the problem right so it's hacking through that and for this year we put the themes of smart cities and hurricane relief on there so anything that relates to building a better city building a better community and more than that helping a community in peril should a disaster happen as we've seen in the Bahamas we really want to emphasize that community feel and have these teams and have these people have an opportunity to come up with ways to help their community we had seventeen teams last year this year we would obviously like to have more with each team working collaboratively with their skill sets in their backgrounds to come up with a way to help the City of Boca Raton and other communities around us. And who makes up these teams like are they all developers are you know did they come from different backgrounds are they young entrepreneurs. It's as diverse as you might expect we have very senior very seasoned folks who are partnering in teams with students from our local universities like FAU or Lynn University so we do have this really interesting mix and it's kind of fun to see how the teams flush out and see how diverse they are the second place team last year was an all women's team that came from our women's council so we have a women in tech group and they put together a team and it was amazing what they came up with by just all kind of saying well I'm good at this and I'm good at that either be web development software graphic design project management all these little skills in jobs that when you look it up they make about four five percent of the work force in South Florida put the all to to work and they make a hundred percent difference and Pedro I know your this is your first year yes here at the city and so what are you looking forward to the most with this hackathon and you know what is your involvement with this event yes we're really excited in the city in the office of innovation the office of innovation is brand new and our two areas of focus one of them is smart city how do we make Boca Raton a more technology enabled city how do we come up with better solutions to overall improve our community and that's everything from transportation to security to  many different things so we touch on a lot of different topics and then the other area of focus is how do we make Boca Raton a more robust entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem our council has has a big interest in this becoming a technology hub and as Joe mentioned before Boca has a really rich history when it comes to technology we have a lot of talent here and so a lot of times I think in the past we've done a really good job of  our community kind of growing organically and then at city hall we have some really good people so we're excited to tap into that the immense talent of our community and say hey guys we want Boca Raton to become a smart city but we know that we can't do this alone and we'd love to engage with you guys so we're excited to see what types of solutions come out because we really have a mindset of the city of not just saying oih that's really good that that looks good we're really looking at this as an opportunity for us to say great this is a first step how do we work together and for those of us who don't know what exactly is a smart city yes so the definition of it is very broad and it depends a lot on on the different types of cities and in what you mean the that the general kind of I would say consensus is  a city that that is delivering wanting to improve the quality of life for its citizens using technology as a primary means or or or a solution for it to do so so it can mean a lot of things it can mean from smart lighting wifi  5G something that's been thrown around a lot how do we use some better more sustainable technology when it comes to our transportation when it comes to building how do we provide better services and more opportunities for citizens pollution lowering pollution and those types of things where the definition varies it depends on the needs of the city a city like Boca Raton we don't have major pollution issues like  say Los Angeles or Hong Kong so that kind of deprioritizes it but there's  it's really vast and what it covers I'll add to that by saying I have this really neat app on my phone that is called the transit app just as simple as it sounds you can look it up it's a free app and they actually have partnered with cities like Boston or Toronto some big cities and integrated all of their public transportation to the big city where you know there's a lot of ways to get around I can go on this and I can see the live tracking where their buses and where their trains are and in South Florida it has Tri Rail and Palm Tran and Lyft and Uber and everything but just by making the public more connected with what is around them there are so many applications of technology and making a better more connected city and that's something as  a Florida native I'm really  proud and interested in so you know we become a better community leveraging what we have here definitely and so overall I guess what is the goal of this hackathon  you know from Palm Beach Tech Association's standpoint and also from a city standpoint like what are you looking to see come out of this event well I think from an industry standpoint we want to raise the awareness that there is a really awesome and amazing tech industry in South Florida and it's constantly growing and constantly evolving you may not have IBM here like we did years ago but we have Modernizing Medicine Office Depot has almost a thousand technology enabled employees in their office here there are so many different companies that we know of today raising the awareness of that and then inter connecting those companies so they can be a part of a movement that grows our tech industry here and give South Florida a really solid economic foundation for the future and heck I went to school here all my life I want more people I went to school with to say I'm coming back to South Florida from New York or Chicago or whatever and I'm going to make my home here so that's our selfish goal from an organization standpoint making sure that we our industry can grow but you know and  I'm sure this will relate to Pedro's I love to see what our people can come up with see what these teams can really do yeah from our side you know  we're sponsors of this event and in the future we're going to be doing work and looking to do a lot more at these events the city is very interested in  really pushing forward and evolving our city because it's growing the needs of our citizens are growing we have different types of citizens  inside of our community so as we look to grow we are looking for new   solutions new innovative ideas that are part of it and we think that some of the best ideas they may come from the big companies but a lot of times some of the best ideas come from the local entrepreneurs and developers the start ups the start up companies that really can push through and  have a very open mind when it comes to developing ideas so from my standpoint I'm really looking forward to seeing the types of things that come out and I think that this is a really good first step for us to one identify some of these issues  not issues but the challenges and problems that we can we can evolve and start identifying solutions and meet some of the people in our community that we think we can tap into as partners going forward awesome so for those that want to attend do you have to go as a team member that you can get involved with this or can you be a spectator so you don't have to be a part of a team to show up and join we actually have some team building factored into the whole time because most people aren't coming with the team or even coming with an idea they're coming to be a part of something and maybe learn so you know take for example a student they're not coming with a team formed but you know we make sure that everyone is paired up with other people that they can form their team and idea and if somebody wants to come as a spectator  we welcome that as well yeah we do have tickets online they start at twenty five dollars for anybody that's because we do have an immense amount of food that is you know have to be factored in for the weekend long event but you know we welcome anybody to come if they want to purchase a ticket and show up on Friday evening which is our kick off event where we're going to have the CEO of Office Depot speak the vice president of technology from Florida Power and Light and of course the illustrious Pedro over here present as well illustrious and and then Sunday morning keep in mind this is twenty four hours straight Sunday morning after being up they have to pitch their  idea to a panel of judges and that'll be Sunday at ten so those are the two major times that if you're not necessarily participating but you're really interested you can come in and attend those last question very serious question considering it's a twenty four hour event what is the best energy drink that people can bring to keep themselves awake and going all night oh lord I'm a Gatorade guy but that's just not going to cut it you know you need some some really hard for coffee we do have a couple coffee  providers we have your typical hot coffee we'll have there which is  Subculture coffee and we have a company called Candid Coffee that's going to be bringing in some cold brew because if there's one thing I know from my days back in college you have to drink a lot of coffee yes that's right okay all right and you know Redbeull should be sponsoring this week we've we looked to place yeah somebody should place a call yeah how we've looked at that and I I feel there has to be a great commercial opportunity here too  like you know like not Red Bull gives you wings but it keeps you up for twenty four hours straight to build stuff for the city of Boca Raton there you go there's your marketing plan our new thing in the city manager's office is Celsius it has like it's a Delray Ceach company it's it's and it is amazing we live off of it I'll talk to them all see what I can do they're in Boca Raton sir they're in Boca I would like to correct you oh okay right now they're a Boca company look at that they were actually at economic development just put an awesome event over at BRiC and the CEO of Celsius was there very cool awesome kudos to Celsius so Celsius Boca Raton I'll spell it right later well thank you gentlemen again so much for being on the show I really appreciate it and I hope you have an extremely successful event thank you very much thank you for having us thanks for tuning it
  • 26. Ep. 26 - Take the Pledge to go Plastic Free

    Plastic Free July is an annual challenge to reduce the many ways we use disposable plastics in our daily lives and raise awareness about the amount of single use and disposable plastic is around us. The Office of Sustainability is challenging residents to try the low-plastic lifestyle for this month and see what habits can stick throughout the rest of the year. Hear from Sustainability Manager, Lindsey Nieratka and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Manager, Leanne Welch as they discuss the benefits of going plastic-free and not only how it helps our environment but our wildlife as well.CONNECT WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website: 26 - Take the Pledge to go Plastic Free Transcript[Upbeat theme music plays]Anne Marie: Hey everyone and welcome to Boca Behind the Scenes -- a get to know you podcast where we talk to city staff to get details and information about new programs, events and projects that are taking place right here in your city. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren, public relations specialist with the city's communications and marketing division, and as always I am happy to be your host today.[Upbeat theme music fades out]So wherever you may be listening to this podcast right now, I want you to take a moment and think of all the ways you may use single use plastics...[Sound of plastic items being touched]Plastic silverware, plastic water bottles, plastic food containers, plastic bags, now go ahead and think of all the people in this entire universe that use those very same items.[Sound of plastic items being dumped]It's kind of overwhelming to think about, right?[Ominous music plays in background]Plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems facing our environment and it's starting to gain a lot of attention. On a regular basis, images appear on our social media feeds of overly polluted oceans, turtles entangled in plastic and ingested plastic particles in pieces by various marine life. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. So in an effort to increase awareness of the everyday ways that we as a community here in Boca Raton use and throw away single use plastics, the City's Sustainability Office is challenging all residents, yes you, to make changes this month during Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is the global yearly challenge where millions of people give up single use plastics to raise awareness of the amount of disposable plastic items that we use every day in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. So last year we spoke to you our City's Sustainability Manager, Lindsay Nieratka, about this very initiative so let's hear from her again about Plastic Free July.[Ominous music fades out]Lindsey: So Plastic Free July is just it's a it's an awareness event and it is an international event that was started in Australia in 2011 and it started as just an office initiative but since then over two million people have opted to participate from over a hundred and fifty-nine different countries. What Plastic Free July does is it challenges participants to take a look around their lives and figure out the places where they're using plastic unnecessarily or not recycling it properly and to then implement some changes to reduce the plastic waste that they're producing.Anne Marie: Some of you may fully understand the benefits of going plastic free and some of you may not right now and that's totally okay. Honestly, I'll admit, it wasn't until I started working very closely with our sustainability department that I started to take notice and really take a look at the amount of single use plastics that I utilize in my life every single day.[Plastic bags being rustled]For those of you that may be in the same boat, let's listen to Lindsey as to the benefits of going plastic free and why it's so important.Lindsey: We've learned a lot in the last few years about the impact of plastic on the environment and just the amount of plastic that we have been producing. A study came out, I think last year, that looked at all the plastic that's been produced since 1950 and what has happened to it all and the results were surprising to even the people doing the study. We produced over eight billion tons of plastic since 1950, seventy percent of that has been disposed and of that only ninety or sorry only nine percent has been recycled. Which means that it is somewhere and sometimes that's going to be in places we don't want it like in our oceans. So all the plastic that's ever been produced still exists and ninety one percent of it has not been recycled. So we have this logical disconnect between this material that lasts forever and a use of it which is for disposable products.[Sound of ocean waves]Anne Marie: And if you've been to the beach lately, I am sure you have seen our many turtle nests blocked off within the area. Being a coastal community, not only is our community important to us but our wildlife that inhabits our environment is as well. Having a world-renowned turtle rehabilitation center within our city has opened our eyes first hand on how plastic affects our marine life, especially our sea turtles. Gumbo Limbo Manager Leeanne Welch was able to put this into perspective.Leanne: Two-thirds of our planet is covered in water, so it makes sense that two-thirds of our plastic that has not been recycled has wandered in the ocean and we see that in the most remote islands in the Pacific that man has never set foot on and they get there and it's just littered with plastic waste. We see it up close and personal at Gumbo Limbo, especially in our turtle rehabilitation facility. Every year there's tens of thousands of baby turtles, hatchling turtles that are born on our beaches and they're they're little, they're smaller than the palm of your hand and they're born with all of the knowledge they need to be an adult turtle. There's no, mom doesn't come back and take care of them and when they're born they swim for about two days they get out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and wind up in these giant weed patches, these sargassum weed lines. And from there at they're preprogrammed to eat pretty much anything that fits in their mouth. A lot of them wind up back in our rehabilitation facility. They're weak and they get washed back up on the beach occasionally some of them do die and we do a necropsy, which is an animal autopsy, and what we find is a hundred percent of them have plastic in their stomachs. Two-thirds of the animals in a rehab facility are also impacted by plastic, whether it's an entanglement in fishing line or rope. Occasionally, we have to do an imputation of a flipper for that, so I mean we're just seeing it up close and personal everyday.Anne Marie: So now that we have all this really great information, why not go ahead and take the pledge to go plastic free this month? The City's Office of Sustainability created a pledge tracker that you can use at your office or at home to hold you accountable. And what's so great about it is that it's not just a one size fits all challenge. You can go ahead and pick initiatives that work well for you as well as your family. And looking at the pledge tracker, that actually have right now in my hand, it lists all the different ways and items to avoid. So there's things such as plastic retail bags, bottled cleaning products, disposable coffee cups, plastic cutlery and foam take out boxes. But then it provides you with different ways to avoid it. So for example, for the plastic retail bags, remember that you can use reusable shopping bags or even a cardboard box if you don't have them when bringing your groceries or items home. For plastic straws, when you go out to dinner, refuse the plastic straw or opt in for a paper straw if they have that available. Or you can even go online and purchase your own reusable straws and bring them with you. For plastic cutlery, you know go ahead and support businesses that are offering compostable alternatives like bamboo or fiber cutlery, or bring your own reusables or sit and enjoy dine-in. So there's so many different ways that you can get involved with this pledge. And what's really awesome too is once you see all the things you can avoid and how to avoid it, you can also look at the impact that you would have on the ocean, waste reduction and climate and kind of what level of impact you would have on those three. So it's a really great initiative that you can get involved in. You can go online and print it off of our website, it'll be on our social media channels and there will also be a display at the library where you can go ahead and get the pledge, and at the bottom you will put your name and information and you can leave the section below to get updates and be entered to win a sustainability price. So, it's really something to definitely look into and make it a challenge within your home with your family, friends and see you know what you can do, not only now during this month but how you can implement that long term. And this isn't the only way that you can participate in Plastic Free July. What's really awesome is the Office of Sustainability and our Recreation Services Department is hosting an intracoastal kayak / canoe clean up on July 27 at Spanish River Park canoe launch to celebrate Plastic Free July as well as Parks and Recreation Month, which I'm sure you'll be seeing more information from us about that and the and the possible podcast, and attendees are able to bring their own canoes or kayaks or you can borrow one but there are limited supplies available so make sure you R. S. V. P. soon to get yours. Or you can even join in on the, on an on-land beach cleanup and clean up plastic from the Intracoastal side of the barrier island. So there will be more information posted about this event and it's coming soon so make sure that you stay connected with us. And these are only two ways for you to practice sustainability. I mean, we have so many initiatives. If you go on to our sustainability web page you can read up all about them. We have our Coastal Connection Restaurant Program that kind of goes hand-in-hand with this. So be sure to go ahead and get involved. Use this as a way to you really propel yourself into sustainability within the city and incorporate these practices into your everyday life. So go and get creative and you know come to the beach cleanup, learn more about sustainability in your city on an ongoing basis, make the pledge and be a part of this great community effort.[Upbeat theme music plays]So for more information as always go ahead and follow us on social media -- we're always posting information about initiatives like this and we are everywhere. We're on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, I think I said Twitter, Instagram, you name it, Nextdoor, we're there. And you can also visit the city's website at and if you go to the search bar and look up sustainability, you'll go to that home page and it'll list all this information and more. So thanks so much again for tuning in to Boca Behind the Scenes and be sure to tune in next time.[Upbeat theme music fades out]
  • 25. Ep. 25 - Be Prepared Boca

    On this episode of Boca Behind the Scenes, host Anne Marie Van Casteren chats with City staff about how the importance of preparing for hurricane season. Hear from the experts about the many ways to connected with the City before, during and after the storm, information about evacuating, curfew rules and more. Guests include Nicole Gasparri, Emergency Manager, Chrissy Gibson, Communications Manager and Mary Siddons, Deputy City Clerk. For more information on hurricane information, please visit WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website:
  • 24. Ep. 24 - Tree Maintenance for Hurricane Season

    In the episode, Boca Behind the scenes takes listeners through the necessary steps to prepare your trees and vegetation for hurricane season. Hear from Nora Fosman, the City's Senior Environmental Officer, on the proper way to prune your trees, how to properly maintain your trees throughout the year and how to prepare yourself, your property and your home for a potential storm. Listeners will also learn more about the Clean and Cut program, free additional bulk and vegetation pickup program provided by Sanitation Services in order to assist you in preparing for hurricane season through the month of June.CONNECT WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website: 24 - Tree Maintenance for Hurricane Season Transcript[Upbeat theme music plays]Anne Marie: Hi everyone and welcome to Boca Behind the Scenes, a get to know you podcast where we talk to city staff and get details and information about new programs, events and projects that are taking place right here in your city. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren, Public Relations Specialist with the City's Communications and Marketing Division and as always, I am happy to be here today.[Upbeat theme music fades out]Well everyone, it's almost June first, and you know what that means. Hurricane season is right around the corner. This is the perfect time to not only get yourself, your family and your pets prepared, but it's also a time to ensure that your properties are safe as well. It's the perfect opportunity to start cleaning out your garage and throwing away that pesky old patio furniture that keeps you from fitting your car in there. It's the perfect time to trim your trees and other vegetation on your property, especially those close to your homes and powerlines. Now you might be listening to me right now and rolling your eyes and thinking that you have plenty of time to get this all done, or you won't even bother, but before you brush me off completely, let me tell you a little story.[Sound of wind from a hurricane]In September 2017, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the history of the Atlantic was projected to come barreling through the east coast of Florida. Packing a hundred and eighty-five mile an hour winds, Hurricane Irma, a category five storm, caused complete devastation and destruction to everything in its path. As the storm inched closer to home, Floridians kept a very close eye on the ever-changing hurricane track, hoping for the best but eventually preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, because of the uncertainty, many residents around the City of Boca Raton left hurricane preparation for the very last minute, which included cleaning out their garages and pruning their trees. Items such as mattresses, patio furniture, old appliances and mounds of palm fronds and vegetation piled up in front of people's homes waiting to be picked up and disposed of by the City of Boca Raton's Municipal Services Department. With the abundance of items that were thrown away, dump sites and transfer stations became inundated with bulk items and debris, eventually reached maximum capacity, and no longer accepted any additional waste. Municipal Services had no other choice but to suspend operations leaving hazardous materials vulnerable in hurricane force winds and residents dissatisfied and extremely frustrated. Fortunately, the city sustained less damage than anticipated, this time around. But the sanitation challenges that the city faced before the storm prompted them to create the Clean and Cut program, a free bulk and vegetation pickup program for all customers within the city. The city will be offering this program again in June after seeing such great participation within the community. Last June over four thousand tons of garbage and bulk items were collected and over one thousand tons of vegetation. This increased from June 2017's pickup by almost twenty percent, with close to an additional eight hundred tons of waste that was picked up from residents. Not only will Clean and Cut help the city's sanitation services run more smoothly before a storm, but it can also help prevent trees falling on powerlines and cutting out your power. One important aspect of getting prepared for this Clean and Cut program is to prune and trim your trees. I was able to speak to Nora Fosman, our City Senior Environmental Officer, and she provided me with some great information on how to prepare and protect your vegetation and property before hurricane season begins.Anne Marie: I am here with Nora Fosman, our Senior Environmental Officer. Thank you so much for being on the show today. So just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do as the Senior Environmental Officer for the city.Nora: Well I've been with the city for 18 years. My degree is in environmental horticulture, and I do a lot of things but mainly I work in the development services department so when somebody comes in either to build a single family house or to demo a house or they want to come in for site plan approval or to do something on the beach, I review those plans and give them comments related to whether it's true preservation or environmentally sensitive land protection or protection of listed species; in a nut shell.Anne Marie: Very cool, so to start off why should residents prune their trees? I know that we're getting ready for hurricane season, but I know this is something that you know we should be doing all year round, so why is it beneficial for residents to prune their trees?Nora: Um trees are like children, if you want them to grow and be part of the community and be strong, you have to start training them early. And the secret to doing that is if you start early, the tree is much smaller that you don't need a lift truck or ladders, you don't need big pruning equipment and so once you get that structural framework and it's strong then just like your children, as the children get older you can allow them to do their own thing because you've got that that framework already built in. But all of that framework is there in place and the tree will be ready to withstand a storm.Anne Marie: And what about if people you know weren't aware of that and they do have more mature trees on their property?Nora: Yeah, absolutely. So, the best thing to do is when you hire tree company, when they come to your house, don't trust that they actually know what they're doing. So, you want to have in mind what exactly you want them to do before they touch your trees. So, we have a tremendous amount of resources that are available on the sustainability website about tree care and tree training. You can call me or my coworker Smith Amisial and we'll be happy to talk to you about you know proper tree care. But the main thing that you want to do is many of these tree companies want to lift the bottoms of the trees and they want to thin the canopies and that's exactly the opposite of what you want to do. On a mature tree, two thirds of the foliage should be in the lower half and I'm gonna say that again, because you rarely see that. So, two thirds of the foliage should be in the lower half of the tree and the reason for that is you want that low center of gravity. So, a tree that has all the weight in the top half, and I've seen it where the foliage is all in that top twenty five percent of the tree, it’s top heavy. So, it's ripe for either snapping or falling over.Anne Marie: And I know that you had mentioned if you start early you don't have to prune every year but if you do you have more mature trees how often should you prune them?Nora: Correct. So, the structural pruning you know, you can't, if you have a tree that's grown, and it's been growing on its own, it's never been touched for you know, ten or fifteen years, you can't correct everything all at once. So, you probably would have to go into a yearly pruning cycle, but I would have the tree company come in and address only those structural issues, nothing else. And so, after you get those structural issues taken care of, then you can go to the three to five-year cycle.Anne Marie: So, what are, I guess, the proper ways to prune trees? Are there like specific steps that you should be following prior and during?Nora: You want to look at the tree again as I said you should make the decision on what you want to do with the tree. So, there are basically five specific types of pruning and again if you go onto our website you'll see pictures and then you can look and go that's my tree and that's what I need to do to it.Anne Marie: That makes it easy. And how much should you cut away from like your if you have power lines on your property or from your home? How far should trees be, or their branches be?Nora: So that is determined by the National Electric Safety Code. So, anything that is within ten feet of a conductor, which is that closest wire, the power can either arc over into that that tree or that branch, and one of two things will happen; it'll either energize the tree; trees are filled with sap and water so they really make good conductors. So, the dangerous thing about the trees close to the power lines is you can be walking by and when that tree is energized the roots of the tree are energized and you wouldn't have any way of knowing that. The other thing that can happen is the tree can catch on fire and what happens is, you know, our fire department will come out and respond except it's not safe for them to enter your property until FPL has time to come out and cut the power. So, it's really, really an important thing to follow the right tree right place. They are working into the National Safety Code and it is for a good reason. The other thing that's not as dangerous but more annoying, especially with palm trees, is if you have palm trees that are near those power lines, palm trees can bend, the fronds straighten out, they slap that wire. When they slap the wire, it shorts it and then you take out the power to your neighborhood, so if you want to be a good neighbor or if you really don't want to lose power during the storm keep an eye on those trees. And then if you do have trees that you feel are growing too close to the power lines call FPL. The number is on your bill and alert them and they'll come out and take care of the situation.Anne Marie: And are there any other tips you have, hurricane prepared, preparation-wise about you know, your foliage or the trees itself, any other vegetation and making sure that your property is safe and secure?Nora: Well it you know, the best time to prune trees is actually in the winter for two reasons. The tree companies aren't as busy, so if you don't have a big demand you're going to get a better price and they're gonna be able to come out there quicker for you. The other thing is you don't have as much foliage on the tree during the winter and it's easier for them to work and it's less for them to take away, which they end up you know charging you for because I have to take it to the landfill. So the best time would be in the winter, but we're still early in the storm season now so people aren't really gearing into that so I would take a walk around the property look at those branches that are over hanging your house, look at branches that might be even if the branches aren't touching power lines now, keep in mind that those trees especially palm trees when the storms come they're going to bend those limbs are gonna straighten and again if you don't want to lose power this is the time to do it. So yeah walk around the house now and look at all those potential things and again if you have any questions feel free to give us a call.Anne Marie: So, I hope all this information was a value to all of you, and it'll prompt you to get involved and participate in the Clean and Cut program. Be sure to get prepared now. Start by cleaning out your garages and storage areas and cutting and pruning your trees and vegetation. Flyers are going to be sent out to all residents serviced by the city sanitation department. They should be heading your mailboxes very soon if they haven't already and it'll provide you with information on pick up days. Or you can also visit the city's website.[Upbeat theme music plays]This information and so much more can be found by visiting the you We also have a really great podcast set up for you where we're going to be talking to our communications manager, emergency manager and deputy city clerk about hurricane preparedness within the city, the emergency operations center, how to stay connected and all really great information on getting you prepared before hurricane season. So, thank you again so much for tuning in to Boca Behind the Scenes and don't forget - be prepared Boca![Upbeat theme music fades out]
  • 23. Ep. 23 - Accessibility in the City

    In this episode [FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] of Boca Behind the Scenes, Public Relations Specialist, Anne Marie Van Casteren and Communications Manager, Chrissy Gibson, chat about all the different facilities, parks, programs and resources for those in the community with special needs and abilities. Listeners, will also have the chance to listen to Recreation Services Director, Michael Kalvort and Community Events Specialist for Sugar Sand Park, Stacee Lanze, regarding new ADA accessible updates and enhancements the City's parks and about the upcoming Especially for Kids event coming up May 18. For more information, check out the City's website by visiting WITH USđŸ“± Facebook:đŸ€ Twitter:đŸ“· Instagram:🏠 Nextdoor:🌎 Website: 23 - Accessibility in the City Transcript[Upbeat theme music plays]Anne Marie: Hi everyone and welcome back to Boca Behind the Scenes, the get to know you podcast where we get the privilege to talk to city staff to get details about all the really new exciting programs, initiatives, events, projects that they're working on. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren, I’m the PR specialist with the City and I am joined by Communications Manager, Chrissy Gibson.Chrissy: Hi everyone.Anne Marie: And we're super excited for today's show. On this episode, will be talking about the City's innovative programs, parks and events for those with special needs and abilities. We were able to speak with Michael Kalvort, our Recreation Services Director, as well as Stacee Lanz, our Special Events Coordinator over at Sugar Sand Park, about all these programs and initiatives so you'll be able to hear more about our conversation throughout the show.Chrissy: One of the reasons we thought it would be a great time to talk about all the fabulous programs and amenities and events that the City has for people with special needs and abilities, is because the 11th Annual Boating and Beach Bash, that's the nation's largest free, fun event with people for disabilities, and for those of you who may not know about the Boating and Beach Bash, it's a really special event. It began in 2009 with a group of volunteers and three boats, boats came out to give rides to attendees, people who have special needs and abilities, who had never been on a boat before and about 350 people came and now 10 years later the event is still going strong.[Sound – Children playing and boat horns]It hosts thousands of people and they had about twenty-five boats and yachts, big boats, little boats, that come out. People get on the boats, they go up and down the intracoastal and it's been dubbed the "Miracle on the Intracoastal." It's really, very, very tremendous and very special event.Anne Marie: That's awesome. I actually had the opportunity to speak with Jay Van Vechten, the Executive Director, over the phone and he was just thrilled at what at successful and tremendous event it was. He said it was the biggest crowd to-date, all the parking lots were filled, nearly six thousand attendees that came, over two thousand boat rides were given in a matter of five hours, so it's really become a great staple in our community.Chrissy: It's such a cool event and it's not just the boat rides, I mean, they have all kinds of resources there and games and fun for folks. It's, it's really cool. And the same volunteers, the volunteers who run this great event, have been really instrumental in working with the City to get us to provide beach access mats on our beaches and we do provide these beach access mats. It's for people who are in a walker, in a wheelchair. They are these rubber kinds of mats that roll all the way down to the ocean and folks who have trouble, you know, obviously walking on the sand makes it more accessible for them to get down. Unfortunately, we used to have to pull these mats up during turtle season, but we worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to get a permit this year, so we have a new pilot program where we can actually leave the mats down for the entire year on to two of our beaches, Spanish River and South Beach. And again, Jay and his team of volunteers were really instrumental in working with us to get that done so that's been pretty cool. And in addition to the beach mats, we actually have beach wheelchairs that are available for people as well, so if you talk to a lifeguard you can see if there's, if there's one available.Anne Marie: Awesome. Well getting back to Spanish River Park, there was a playground that was renovated last year that included some really innovative and accessible features to make it easier, more enjoyable for those with disabilities to actually go and enjoy, so I know the City has been really great in keeping up with accessibility trends in our facilities, our parks, and our playgrounds so we get to hear more about this and all the new features from our Recreation Services Director, Michael Kalvort.Michael: Sure, well accessibility is really important to our department as well as the City, obviously, we're having a full podcast on it and educating our citizens on it. The new playground over at Spanish River has a pour and play servicing which allows easy traversal, we can have our wheelchair-bound patrons navigate throughout the entire playground area. There's also transfer stations which provide access up throughout that entire playground for our, for our community.Anne Marie: That's great and are there any new projects or playgrounds that are in the pipeline that will include ADA accessible features?Michael: Absolutely. We're actually in the process of building Hillsboro El Rio Phase 2 which is a new park located right off Dixie and Southwest 18th Street. A lot of our citizens are probably familiar with the northern part of our park, but the southern park is under construction. We'll have a very large, accessible playground, we'll have accessible restrooms that are there as well as a long walking path which will provide a lot of amenities for our able disabled patrons alike.Chrissy: So not only are those new parks seeing some great new features, but the Sugar Sand Science Playground was designed to be a more inclusive experience for those with all abilities and they have some really unique features such as the Oodle Swing, sensory play roller table, the quiet nook, sign language alphabet board and all kinds of things. I know when my kids were little I could barely get in there to chase them around because the spaces were so small but now they've made them much bigger so kids with wheelchairs and parents can get in, you can keep an eye on your kids. It's such a great experience over there, but we can hear more about that from Stacee Lanz. She's Sugar Sand Park's Community Events Specialist and she's got all kinds of information about it.Stacee: The Sugar Sand Park science playground it is a three story science playground with a lot of scientific features and some of the features that were updated to make it an inclusive playground are the flooring, which was changed to be the impact attenuating flooring, which is that sort of bouncy material that gives when you run, all of the ramps all the way up to the third floor are now wide enough to accommodate wheelchair access as well as the care givers, and also the hand rails that were put in for those people that need it. Really, they're added in order to build on the multi-sensory experiences to build physical as well as a cognitive strength. They benefit sensory, motor skills, cognitive skills and social and emotional skills so yeah, they really did a phenomenal job with this playground.Anne Marie: In addition to all of those amazing features Stacee spoke to us about, Sugar Sand Park is hosting their Especially for Kids event on May 18th, as well as some really great spring break and April programs. I know she mentioned to me that starting in April, they have their parent lectures where they invite a speaker to chat about topics such as social skills, increasing communication skills at home, they have beginner and advanced level classes, so it's a bi -monthly program. It is starting in April, but they also have other programs that they host for families and kids with special needs throughout the entire year. But their Especially for Kids event is also a really tremendous event. They close down the park at around five thirty and then reopen it for family and kids with special needs to really come and enjoy all these features we are talking about and activities and really fun things to do so Stacee was able to give us some more information about that as well.Stacee: In May we have our Especially for Kids event which is a family event where we close down the park at 5, we re-open at 5:30 and families get exclusive access to our amenities, Explorium, Explorium demos, free carousel rides. We'll have a petting zoo, dance party, family photos, arts and crafts, all kinds of different things for families to come. It is free, and they just have to register in advanced online.Anne Marie: So, as we've been chatting about and hearing about, the City really does a tremendous job of trying to be innovative in its programming and services for those with special needs and abilities. I know when I first started here, I had the privilege of sharing a really great story with our community about our Patch Reef Tennis Center. They have a wheelchair program. It was actually named the 2017 USTA Grassroots Wheelchair Tennis Program, long title, but they were recognized nationally, which is really, really awesome. They host the South Florida Open which is a huge wheelchair tennis championship where players from all over the country come and play and they have some really great programs such as their weekly clinic where wheelchair players are paired with able bodied players so it's a really inclusive and amazing program.Chrissy: You know, not only does the City have great programs but the county also offers a lot of great programs. I know you've probably seen this van around town, I know that I have. It's the Palm Tran van. Apparently, if you have special needs, they provide a door-to-door service and you can make arrangements online or with the county and they will come and pick you up so it's a paratransit service, it’s a great resource. So, between the City and the county, we both are offering a lot of great information and resources for people with abilities and disabilities and I hope that we've been able to provide some new information to people today.Anne Marie: Definitely, it's a lot of great information for our residents. I really hope everybody's really able to take advantage of these resources, facilities and more. So, thank you so much for joining me today Chrissy.Chrissy: You're welcome.[Upbeat theme music plays]Anne Marie: So just to quickly recap, Sugar Sand Park will be hosting their Especially for Kids event on May 18th. The event is free for attendees but please make sure that you go online and register on their website. In addition, as you heard we have several accessible playgrounds around the City, beach mats and beach chair access at two of our beaches, athletic opportunities at the Patch Reef Tennis Center that people with special needs can enjoy so there's so many resources, so many services and so many facilities and amenities. You can find all the information on our website at And if you have any ideas or initiatives that relate to this topic or any other topic for that matter, that you think will really help improve the quality of life in Boca Raton, your city, you can attend one of the City's Community Advisory Panel meetings, which is the second Thursday of each month. And again, you can find all this information on our website. Thank you so much again for tuning in to Boca Behind the Scenes.[Upbeat theme music fades out]