Friends' board of directors regularly meets on the third Wednesday of the month. Both February and March meetings were cancelled because of health concerns. In May, the meeting was held by telephone conference call.
Friends president John McPherson and Refuge Manager Andrew Gude set up the conference call at the refuge. Fifteen of the other 17 board members were able to call in from home and participate. It worked surprisingly well.
Andrew reported that the headquarters office building remains closed to the public, in keeping with CDC guidelines. However, all outdoor areas of the Refuges remain open, as long as social distancing guidelines are observed. There has been no need to close areas to date. Visitors have been more abundant than in past years at the same time of year, especially at Shell Mound and Shired Island, possibly because the Refuge has been open while other recreation areas were closed.
Law enforcement officer Sterling Valentine was temporarily re-assigned from the Refuge to the southern US border during the pandemic months. Thankfully, she is returning now. Equipment Officer George Pelt also has returned from a temporary assignment to work on fire equipment and fire mitigation in south Florida and is now working on enhancements to the River and Tram Ridge Trails. Other staff have been on duty onsite throughout these months. Forestry work continues. A new pole barn has been set up. Vandalism along the Dixie Mainline has been addressed.