The Florida Communities of Excellence Awards Program recognized St. George Plantation Owners’ Association as one of 20 winners in its annual statewide awards gala in Orlando on May 2.

The Plantation was selected in the category of Florida-Friendly Landscaping for its environmentally sound landscape and wetland preservation and maintenance efforts. General Manager Karen Rudder was on hand at the event to receive the award on behalf of the association.

“Our owners in the Plantation have always been committed to preserving the natural beauty of the island,” said Rudder. “But in 2011, the board began developing a master landscaping plan, with the help of landscape architect, Patrick Hodges Land Studio of Tallahassee. This plan is the blueprint that will sustain and enhance our native environment for the next generation through the use of Florida-friendly landscaping principles.”

Steve Kearney, president of the Plantation Owners’ Association, said the honor is particularly gratifying for the locally managed residential community. “The awards are usually dominated by central and south Florida associations, who have big management companies running the community and professional landscape companies handling the land,” he said. “Our Panhandle community relies on a small professional staff and enthusiastic volunteers, so we are thrilled to be recognized.”

Now in its sixth year, the Florida Communities of Excellence Awards represent the pinnacle of achievement for community associations. Founded by the Florida Community Association Journal and the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, the coveted awards focus on innovative practices in condominium and homeowner associations from across the state. Winners are chosen from small communities (up to 400 units) and larger communities by a panel of independent experts, including representatives of leading state and local government departments and agencies.

St. George Plantation is a gated community of more than 1,200 acres with approximately 900 lots on the western end of St. George Island. Established nearly 40 years ago, the Plantation retains the dunes and heavily wooded acreage that once provided turpentine for the local economy. With 500 homes, the Plantation serves as destination of choice for permanent residents and vacationers.