With the $75,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Friends is working on the first phase of restoring the Cook's House at Vista. This historic building was probably originally a workers' home. It was determined in the analysis completed with our first grant to be in dire need of work to keep it from deteriorating beyond recovery. Friends hopes to use this building in the future as a Visitor Welcome Station. We have a schematic design from the architects. Click here to view the schematic. Now, onward to the next step.
The Swallow-tailed kites are returning. Refuge staff members spotted one on February 28. Friends board members and members are seeing them too. Debbie Jordon saw one near her home in Melrose and Barbara Woodmansee saw one in San Felasco Hammock. Captain Tony Johns spotted one near the mouth of the Gopher River.
Debbie Jordan contacted Avian Research and Conservation Institute researcher Dr. Gina Kent for an update. The photo shows our Suwannee II, dressed in white, on her way back to us as of March 13.
The second is from March 19. She's back in Florida. Now, we hope for a successful nesting this year.
March 15 was a cold morning…..40’s, windy and cloudy. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude and Deputy Manager John Stark motored the Friends volunteers out at 8 a.m.! The dock is under construction. Tour boats started bringing visitors at 9:00. The boats were full even with the cold weather.
Zoey and Adam, UF graduate students, had a touch tank set up at the dock. The kids especially enjoyed seeing and touching some of the marine animals that hang out in the grasses.
Andrew and John welcomed visitors and gave a brief history of Seahorse and the Lighthouse. Visitors began the steep walk to the Lighthouse which is 55’ above sea level! Many brought lunch, ate outdoors and on the beach.
Most of the folks making it to the lighthouse were keen on getting to the beach or finding a place to sit down and recover from the climb. Everyone loved the beach. Dolphins entertained the visitors with splashing and playing off the beach. The weather warmed up and became a sunny day.
There were quite a few that were interested in the cemetery and who were buried there.
The count was 98 visitors. Next Open house March 29th.
If you sign up for a walk with Friends' board member Barbara Woodmansee, you're in for a treat. The last one produced as many as 23 different species of butterflies on a relatively short walk. Without her expert eye, many if not the majority might have been missed by the uneducated eye. So, good news, she's scheduled another walk for Thursday, April 6th. The walk will be along Barnett Creek Road on the Lower Suwannee Refuge.
There is no fee for this event. We would appreciate your emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to come. If there is a large group for the walk we will have additional butterfly experts to help spot and identify these wonderful creatures.
We will start to gather at 8:45 a.m. at the point where Barnett Creek Road intersects with the Nature Drive. At 9:00 Barbara will have an introductory talk. We will start walking at 9:15 and finish by 12:00. Park along the side of the road near where Barnett Creek Road intersects with the Nature Drive.
We will not cover a lot of distance, perhaps a mile out and then back. We will be walking very slowly, watching the sides of the road for our butterflies. It will be good to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, and bug spray.
The Welcome Desk is a great opportunity to help people learn about the value of the refuge to them as visitors, and to the overall quality of life in our region. Our Welcome Desk is moving around these days to find locations that will reach more people and more diverse audiences. Here are some recent outings:
Seahorse Key Open House
Seahorse Key Open House was held March 15 on a cold but clear day. Tour boats delivered interested visitors to a truly unique island. People hiked from the beach to the light house, some crossed over to the the far side of the island and down to the beach. Friends staffed a table and answered many questions about the Refuges and the Friends volunteer organization.
Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center
Friends members continue to periodically staff a Refuge Welcome Desk on the porch of the Cedar Key Chamber's Visitor Center. This is a prime location to reach visitors new to the area and even some locals that don't know about the Lower Suwannee Refuge down the road, or the Cedar Keys Refuge out in the Gulf. While weekends tend to be the best time to reach the most people, we've had some competition with Chamber porch activities - musicians are also a popular attraction that the Chamber supports on weekends. So we started considering other locations.
River Trail Parking Lot
Friends members set up here on March 12 and greeted as many as 20 visitors in just a couple of hours. As one member of the team, Bill Dummit stated, "A fair number already knew quite a bit about the Refuge, but one couple was not even aware that Shell Mound and Cedar Key were right down the road. One visitor was the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation (which includes state parks)," Dummit added. "She was with her brother and was impressed with the Refuge. She and her brother now own the last two blue Cedar Keys NWR hats - time to reorder," Dummit said.
Friends volunteers set up by the ramp and reported that they talked with as many as 40 visitors! This was on a Monday and we weren't sure how many people would be out and about. Discovered that this is another excellent venue for reaching and educating people.
Suwannee Art Festival
Team Debbie reports that this was the best year so far for festival and visitors to the Friends booth. Sales of tee shirts was great, we got some nice donations and a new member signed up. Thanks to our great volunteers who staffed the booth and reported that they were almost constantly talking with folks.
We can only imagine how many more people we could reach if our wish of purchasing a mobile trailer to move around on any given day to where the action. If you're interested click here to view the Friends Wish List.
Concept for mobile outreach trailer - We Want One!