Update on Orange County’s Bear Cart Program

From Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

It has been almost a year since the “Rollout” event for the launch of Orange County’s Bear Cart Program. The program is targeted for residents in the northwest part of unincorporated Orange County near Apopka. More than 10,000 households that are within the designated Bear Management Area are eligible for this voluntary program to receive a bear-resistant garbage cart for a $50 processing fee. These specially-equipped 95-gallon carts work with the County’s automated collection system and have a gravity lock mechanism certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The purpose of the Program is to decrease human-bear conflicts by securing garbage that attracts bears. Customers in the designated area may leave their garbage out overnight, according to a revised ordinance that went into effect regarding the Program. However, homeowners in the designated area who do not wish to pay the processing fee for a cart have the option to secure their existing cart and place it at the curb between 4:00 am and 6:00 am the day of service instead of overnight when bears forage for food.

Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

The bear carts cost about $245 each (much more than a regular cart). However, the County secured $200,000 ($200,124.15 total for the Florida Wildlife Commission Grant Award) in grants from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help offset the cost. Similar to its counterpart, the bear carts remain the property of Orange County for use by residential customers.

A program still ongoing today, a brief timeline detailing the history of the Program is: The Florida Wildlife Commission awarded grant funding for the Program in June of 2017; Orange County had acquired the bear carts, “Bear Cart Awareness” brochures were mailed to residential customers in the Bear Management Area, and the “Bear Cart Kick-off” event postcard was mailed to residential customers in the Bear Management Area in August of 2017; the kick-off event, originally scheduled to take place in September of 2017, was cancelled due to the landfall of Hurricane Irma; the initial bear carts were delivered in conjunction with a media event, hosted by Mayor Bryan Nelson (then Orange County Commissioner for District 2) and the Solid Waste Division, and the Neighborhood Preservation and Revitalization Office distributed the brochures to residents within the Bear Management Area at HOA meetings in October of 2017; and a second bear cart postcard was mailed to residential customers in the Bear Management Area in April of this year. Today, 919 total bear carts have been purchased, with 259 having been delivered and 660 still available. Residents may view the video for the media event from last year here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szRR2HpqDew#action=share as well as photos of myself being introduced to Orange County’s Bear Cart Program this week.

Residents who would like to participate in this program may visit the Orange County Government webpage at www.ocfl.net/BearCarts for program details (including the brochure). The webpage provides residents with the ability to verify that they live in the designated Bear Management Area and apply for a bear cart online. Residents can also print the application form and send it in the mail to 5901 Young Pine Road, Orlando, Florida 32829 for processing or contact the Solid Waste Hotline at 407-836-6601 for assistance from a team member. Regardless of the method they choose, residents are required to pay the $50 processing fee to obtain a cart.

Shown by the numbers and support from elected officials, staff and residential customers, it is evident that Orange County’s Bear Cart Program has been successful in its first year in achieving the balance between convenience for residents and the health and safety of bears for curbside garbage collection.

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