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.
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/
Suwannee Community Center, 23465 SE Hwy 349 (opposite the Salt Creek Restaurant)
Wednesday, October 18 at 8:30 am
Boat, walk or ride your golf cart to help de-litter the roads and waterways around the village of Suwannee. Refuge staff will transport volunteers down the river from Fowlers Bluff, there is room for 16 onboard.
Free smoked chicken lunch provided by Jerry Everett of the Waterfront Market.
Contact: Debbie Meeks 352-278-5088
RSVP for the Fowlers Bluff boat ride
As we know, the number of staff members at our Refuges has been cut over the past several years. One unfortunate result is that visitors to the headquarters compound often have less personal interaction with the people who know the Refuges well and can share information about their history, where interesting sites can be found, the fishing and hunting opportunities, or the best wildlife viewing spots.
Over the same few years, Friends has developed many walking and paddling trails, making information about them available in print and online for free. But a brochure never quite does what a conversation could do.
So, we are considering the establishment of a Friends Visitor Contact Program. If there are Friends members interested, we plan a get-together to talk through plans and possibly set up a pilot project starting as early as November.
One thought is that Friends volunteers would spend time at the front desk greeting walk-in visitors and chatting with them about the Refuges. The volunteers would need to be knowledgeable and able to work independently of the Refuge staff. We would provide training and information.
Each Friends member will receive an email soon about this idea. If such a program might interest you, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be on the contact list for the initial discussion.
Be in Cedar Key the weekend of October 21 and 22! The Seafood Festival will be in full swing on both Saturday and Sunday. Friends will have an information booth at the City Park. We will be telling visitors where, why, and how to visit the refuges by car, on foot, or in boats. We will also have Friends merchandise for sale to help raise awareness of the importance of our Refuges to the community and its economy. If you could help out for a couple of hours either day at the booth, it would be great! Email email@example.com.
Double benefit -- On Saturday, the Refuge, in partnership with the Nature Coast Biological Station, will hold on Open House at Seahorse Key. The island is only open a few times a year. The Open House is free. You need to find your own way out there, either by personal boat or by taking one of the private, fee-based shuttle services that leaving from the Cedar Key dock.
The Refuges, in partnership with the Nature Coast Biological Station, engaged William Wolfson a summer intern to initiate work on a series of kayak-fishing guides. The Friends will continue the project this fall and work to develop them into user-friendly brochures.
In the interim, we have posted the draft documents, knowing that interest in kayak-fishing in this area is high. Please use them knowing that refinement may be needed. We would appreciate your providing comments here or sending them to us a firstname.lastname@example.org. Find them under the Maps/Trails tab above.
Summer is HOT. Refuge work goes on apace.
Dr. Ken Sassaman, the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of Florida Archaeology at the University of Florida, and his students have been working with the Lower Suwannee Refuge to understand the history of Shell Mound, and what it can tell us about our present and future. Changes have been made to the Shell Mound Trail to better highlight the newest information from their investigations. With some assistance from the Friends, Dr. Sassaman will soon have a new trail guide available to the public. For a sneak peek, you can look at the draft version of the guide in the Maps/Trails section of this website.
The Friends had the extraordinary opportunity in August to host a visit to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge by internationally famous nature photographer Clyde Butcher. Friends Past President Maria Sgambati was his guide. Members Frank and Mandy Offerle, Robin Gilles, Anne Lingren, and others introduced him to the wonders of our beautiful Refuge and region. The Cedar Keys Art Center will be hosting an exhibit of his works next spring and we are all hoping to have a chance to hear him talk and to meet him.
The Lower Suwannee Refuge is working with several potential partners on submitting grants for Gulf oil spill funds to conduct a hydrologic engineering assessment in preparation for restoring more natural hydrology on the Refuge.
The 143 miles of Refuge roads and trails are former logging roads constructed to access timber stands. Natural hydrologic flow and connections to the Suwannee River Sound, estuary, and Big Bend region of the Gulf of Mexico is negatively impacted by this old road network. The roads function the same way levees or dikes would. They impound the water and in many instances redirect it into culverts, disrupting natural sheet flow. This blockage of surface flow means that much of this water does not make it to the estuary. It is detained long enough to evaporate inland altering the estuarine balance and the ecology and productivity of the nearshore waters. This affects freshwater and marine fisheries that are important for recreation and commerce.
The proposals being worked on address the most significant road features, the Dixie Mainline and the southern half of the Nature Drive. They seek to restore hydrology on the Refuge through:
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