The 2019 Friends Annual Meeting attracted a near standing-room-only crowd of about 140 folks to Refuge headquarters today. The weather was kind this year, especially compared to the rainy, cool days we had each of the past two Annual Meetings.
New Friends shirts, hats, earrings, and mugs sold briskly, perhaps because while shopping members were able to hold board-member Margie VanLandingham's 9-week old puppy.
Outgoing president Bill Dummitt provided an overview of the highlights of the past year, including the Welcome Desk program, expansion and enhancement of the Shell Mound interpretive program, trail guide development, and nature walks.
President John McPherson previewed the next year. Friends now has a presence on Meetup.com, progress continues on planning for future Vista property use and on enhancements to Shell Mound trails. Friends archives and Bylaws updates also are planned.
The new board was elected and outgoing members acknowledged. The term of office is from Annual Meeting to Annual Meeting.
New and re-elected Board members, serving until 2021:
Continuing Board members, serving until 2020:
Outgoing Board members:
Russ Hall highlighted the work Friends are doing to document species on the Refuges through iNaturalist.org.
Refuge Manager Andrew Gude overviewed the year's activities on the Refuge. His positive and encouraging presentation highlighted the many achievements of the Refuge despite the fact that the number of staff members has decreased from 15 to 5 in the past three years and that the government was shut down for a month. He credited the staff, community, and Friends with keeping Refuge momentum moving forward and supporting the Refuge's vision and goals.
Shari Blisset-Clark, president of the Florida Bat Conservancy was the featured speaker.
Walks were available in the afternoon to the River Trail, Shell Mound, and Dennis Creek guided by Bob Lewis, Jay Bushnell, and Bill Dummitt respectively.