Several of us were clearing the new section of the Shell Mound trail today, preparing for the Friends Annual Meeting. To our surprise, a group of Road Scholars showed up. Maybe we are not as far off the main trail as we think we are!
The Featured Presentation
We all know Shell Mound, or so we think!
However, as our featured speaker, Dr. Ken Sassaman of the University of Florida, may change our minds about what we think we know. He has amazing new information for us about this site in our backyard, on our own Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. A few of the amazing details --
Soft-Opening of the Expanded Shell Mound Interpretive Trail
After lunch, those of us who want to, we will travel on our own to Shell Mound. The new interpretive trail has nine stations. Interpretive panels are in preparation for each station. They will not be ready for this soft-opening. However, we will have docents at each station to explain what is important about the spot. Six of the nine stations are along the current Shell Mound trail. The other three are along a new piece of trail that will need to be more substantially developed over the next year.
Friends will have laid it out well enough for walking it but it will not really be ready for prime time yet by the Annual Meeting. Docents will be able to provide much of the story from a location on the developed trail for any who want to skip this more primitive trail section. The entire Shell Mound trail will remain less than a mile in length.
The trip to Shell Mound will conclude the Annual Meeting for this year, and hopefully be the beginning of many more visits to the site by all of us over the coming year.
On Thursday, February 22 a group of us will be meeting at 9 am at the Shell Mound trailhead to spend a couple of hours working on the new archaeological trail.
Much of the new trail follows the older, developed trails. But a couple of hundred yards is newly laid out, and covers an undeveloped section that skirts the hollow interior of the crescent-shaped mound.
The photo above shows the area where a trail needs to be created.Work will include clearing low vegetation from the trail and removing snags and fallen branches that obscure important archaeological features.
Please join us. Sturdy shoes, long pants and sleeves, work gloves, hats, insect repellent, and drinking water are all recommended. Also, if you have ready access to pruning saws, loppers, rakes, or other simple tools, bring them along. If you don’t have tools, don’t worry, there will be plenty of work for you.
Soon the Shell Mound Archaeology Trail will have new interpretive panels. The ones in the photos above are draft versions. But, they will not be ready in time for the soft-opening of the trail on the afternoon of the Friends Annual Meeting, March 10.
Therefore, we need 10 volunteers who will stand along the trail for about an hour during the opening. Each volunteer will talk to the Friends who come from the Annual Meeting about the information that will be on the interpretive panel at that spot.
Training and a narrative will be provided.
Are you willing to be one of the docent/volunteers, a human interpretive panel? Contact us at email@example.com!
At the Friends Annual Meetings, we have held several varieties of fund raising events. We auctioned off kayaks, first edition nature books signed by the authors, nature-art pieces, and dinners prepared by Refuge Manager Andrew Gude. We had photo contests and bid on the photos. We had silent auctions.
Always, we have also had our Friends promotional merchandise, with our logo and name for sale in hopes of building awareness about the Refuges in our midst.
This year, we will have a FLASH SALE on all our Friends merchandise. All of our merchandise has paid for itself long ago and what we sell at the Annual Meeting will go straight to helping us run the Friends programs this year.
What does Friends spend money on? Primarily, on printing of maps, brochures, and trail guides for Refuge visitors, on the Annual Meeting, and on the software we use to maintain our databases and produce our publications.
Bring lots of cash or checks and be ready for amazing bargains on beautiful Friends shirts, earrings, and paddling guides.
But Wait! Maybe we will also have a Limited Silent Auction. If we could have not more than 12 nature-related items contributed that would appropriately have a starting bid of about $25, we would like to have a Limited Silent Auction. If you have an item to contribute that would fit that bill, please contact a Board member or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nominations Committee has set a Slate of Officers and Directors. It will be presented to the members for a vote at the Annual Meeting on Saturday March 10. Terms of office extend from annual meeting to annual meeting. The dates in parenthesis indicate the year when a term will expire at the annual meeting. Short profiles of each current and proposed Board member are on the Board page of the website.
Bill Dummitt (2019)
John McPherson (2019)
Russ Hall (2019)
Mackenzie Russell (2020)
Ed DeHaan (2019)
Presented for Re-election
Libby Cagle (2020)
Debbie Meeks (2020)
Margy Van Landingham (2020)
Presented as New Board Members
Bob Lewis (2020)
Miriam Wiley (2020)
Directors Whose Terms Continue for Another year
Jim Hoy (2019)
Debbie Jordan (2019)
Dan Kline (2019)
Kit Lane (2019)
Doug Maple (2019)
Roger McDaniels (2019)
John Thalacker (2019)
Linda Tyson (2019)
Directors Leaving the Board
Refuge staff assisted the State archaeologist in the removal of human remains recently discovered on Seahorse Key.
The Refuge staff continue the planning and research to determine the best way to restore hydrology across the Lower Suwannee Refuge into the Gulf. The natural flow was altered decades ago by timbering. Restoration would likely be a significant enhancement to habitat for the local wildlife, fish, and shellfish populations.
Longtime refuge hunter and part-time refuge mural painter, Clint Wynn, has been adding beauty along the Dixie Mainline. Thanks from all of us, Clint.
Now that the weather has warmed up and we’ve had rain, we should start to see flowers blooming in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge! On our walk last month, the only flowers we saw blooming were tiny violets. Even so, there was plenty of bird activity and we even saw butterflies, including one monarch trying to nectar on a tiny violet!
If you have any questions or would like to meet us in the refuge rather than Cedar Key Town Park, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 352-543-6738.
I hope to see you Friday!
FLORIDA’S WILD LANDSCAPES THROUGH THE LENS OF CLYDE BUTCHER
Florida Humanities Council - Community Projects grant and Cedar Key Arts Center present an event focused on Florida’s most iconic landscape photographer, Clyde Butcher. Clyde will share hand-selected images honed for the Nature Coast audience and present a lecture about his photography.
SEATING/TICKETS: Seats are free for the lecture, but limited because of the room’s size. Reserve your seat and get your tickets by visiting Eventbrite.com. Both venues are handicapped assessable. Street parking is available.
Post Cleanup Update
Friends Peg Hall, Jay Bushnell and Debbie Meeks helped volunteers Charlie Adkins and Carolyn Nobbs pick up litter along CR 347 that borders the Refuge on the Levy county side. The group collected 20 bags of litter. Later that week Charlie and Carolyn finished the entire 9 miles of roadside and totaled 77 bags.
Original Cleanup Announcement
Friends are needed to pick up litter along 9 miles of CR 347 that border the Refuge on the Levy county side.
Two new maps make it easy to learn about sites on the refuge to visit and to download trail guides and brochures that describe each.
One is available on the refuge website as the top item in the pull-down menu under MAPS/TRAILS, or it can be accessed by clicking here.
The whole map looks like this. You can zoom in to get more detail and, by clicking on one of the little icons, you can call up a brochure. For example, clicking on the paddling icon nearest the bottom of the map calls up the brochure for the Barnett to McCormick Creek paddling trail.
Save the date, Saturday March 10, 2018. This year's event will be mostly like those of the past, with good food, good company, the great outdoor spaces of the refuge, and a captivating speaker. Our keynote speaker will be the ever popular Ken Sassaman. Dr. Sassaman will tell attendees about surprising discoveries he and his students have made at Shell Mound and nearby sites. Then, in a break from the past, following lunch we will travel from refuge headquarters to Shell Mound. There Dr. Sassaman and students will guide us around the site, showing us where and how their discoveries were made.
Based on these recent findings, a rerouted trail is being laid out, brochures with two different levels of detail are in preparation, and a series of permanent informative panels will be installed at key locations along the trail. We expect some or all of these products to be available by the time of the meeting, and attendees will get to be the inaugural visitors to the new trail.
Even without the expected influx of visitors, volunteering at the Refuge is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. This day was windy and in the 30s, so the porch rockers were not as inviting as normally.
The Friends volunteer visitor contact program began in December with more than 30 volunteers taking turns greeting visitors at the refuge. Volunteers were on duty most weekdays, with the exception of Fridays and the Christmas to New Years' interval when the refuge office was closed. Visitation has been sparse, but is expected to increase dramatically when the increased level of services available is more widely known. Volunteers have been reorganizing the refuge reception area, working on training materials, developing a chat room to share experiences, and boning up on brochures about refuge features and activities to be shared with visitors. In the future it is expected that volunteers will lead field trips for visitors and expand coverage to include weekends during the winter season.
Additional volunteers will be welcomed. In addition, our needs list includes: a laptop computer with wifi connectivity, a computer printer, a wall-mount computer or television screen, and one or more desk chairs in good condition. In the future we may want to obtain a golf cart to ferry people with disabilities to sites in the headquarters area.
This crab wasn't caught right on our refuges but I thought it might interest our members. Tagged blue crab caught locally raises eyebrows
Work continues restore the natural hydrology of the Lower Suwannee Refuge in order to enhance wildlife habitat and improve fresh water flow into the River and estuary. The staff members are looking at impediments to natural hydrology. Where their removal would be a net gain for the wildlife, changes are planned.
At the end of September, plans were first mentioned for a new Friends Visitor Contact Program.
Plans are moving ahead. All Friends members received an email in mid-October asking if they might be willing to greet visitors at the headquarters a few days a month. About 30 members have already signed up to help develop and participate in the pilot program. Any who can will meet with Refuge staff members on Wednesday November 8 to talk through the initial plans and work on materials the volunteers will need so they can provide useful information.
This year, Camper Volunteers will also participate. If that program piques your curiosity, check out the FWS Volunteers page or Resident Volunteers Opportunity page.
November issue of the Cedar Keys Audubon Avocet
The Cedar Key Public Library, Cedar Key Friends and the Cedar Key Arts Center are partnering to bring a program to the library on Wednesday, November 15 at 5 p.m. featuring two speakers from The Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay, which is instrumental in the upcoming show at the Cedar Key Arts Center titled "WARRIORS."
Major John McKitrick (Operations Director VACTB) & Staff Sgt. John Katerberg (both retired from the U.S. Army). They will speak about the Center and the creative opportunities offered for reintegration into civilian life. The opening for the show at the Arts Center till take place on November 18.
The Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay, Inc. (VACTB) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for military and veterans to develop and showcase creative and artistic accomplishments. As veterans and their families transition to civilian life, the Veterans Art Center is supportive of their need for creative outlets as well as the need for economic opportunities.
On warm days that were predicted to be cool and rainy, volunteers David Davis, Jay Bushnell, Donna Bushnell, Bob Hudson, Judy Johnson, Andrew Gude, Russ Hall, Peg Hall, John McPherson, and Margy VanLandingham talked with many, many visitors to the Friends Booth at the Cedar Key Seafood Festival on October 21 and 22. It was a grand opportunity to spread the word about supporting wildlife within our two refuges. The dedication to our unbelievable environment here in Cedar Key and around the Suwannee River basin is impressive.
Introduction to the Lone Cabbage Oyster Reef Restoration Project
Thursday, October 26, 7:00 p.m.
Community Center, 809 6th
Street, Cedar Key
In less than 30 years, 3,000 year old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to University of Florida/IFAS researchers. For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend. Now, with an award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems and economies become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides.
The “Recovery and Resilience of Oyster Reefs in the Big Bend of Florida” project will target the Lone Cabbage reef chain in the Suwannee Sound.
The UF/IFAS team plans to restore up to 32 acres (encompassing about 3 linear miles) of reef.
Peter Frederick, Bill Pine and Leslie Sturmer are the primary investigators for the grant.
They will talk about their research, which shows that the decline of oysters in the Big Bend region is due to increasing salinity levels in estuaries, which is where freshwater from rivers mixes with ocean salt water. Oysters need intermediate salinities, and have die offs as they get stressed by prolonged periods of high salinity.
Oyster reefs are long linear chains, that serve as leaky dams, keeping freshwater near the coast. As oyster reefs die off and lose elevation, more ocean water mixes with fresh, boosting salinity. Reefs made up of dead oysters eventually disintegrate into sandbars. Oysters can’t establish on sand, so the reef can’t regenerate. The UF/IFAS project wants to break this cycle by encouraging new oysters to recolonize areas where reefs have degraded. To do that, researchers will install limestone boulders covered in a layer of oyster and clam shell, materials that readily attract new oysters.
An introduction to the Lone Cabbage Oyster Reef Restoration Project will be held on Thursday, October 26, starting at 7 p.m., at the Community Center, 809 6th Street, Cedar Key. Frederick,
Pine and Sturmer will provide further information on the background of the project, problems with offshore reefs and why they have declined over the past decades, results of the pilot study
conducted in 2011-12, and a time line for the new project. A question and answer session will follow over coffee and desserts. For further information about the meeting, contact Leslie Sturmer, with the UF/IFAS Shellfish Extension Program, at 352-543-5057 or Lnst@ufl.edu.
To learn more about this project, visit http://www.wec.ufl.edu/oysterproject/
Visitor Center Hours
10am - 3pm Mon. - Thur.
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are welcome to walk or bicycle around yellow Refuge gates.
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"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida