A Summer Solstice Celebration will take place at Shell Mound on Saturday, June 24, 2023.
Friends of Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys will partner with the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Florida Paddling Trails Association. The time and activities will be announced here soon.
We expect to have guided archaeology walks on Shell Mound and guided archaeology-centered kayak paddles from Shell Mound. Participants will need to provide their own kayaks and equipment.
See the post about the 2021 Summer Solstice Celebration here.
Friends created a series of 12 paddling trails to provide paddlers with guides to seeing the Refuges from the water. Each guide provides a map and indicates places of ecological and environmental interest that the paddlers might want to note along the trail. The guides are available on this website to be download for free HERE.
Seven of the guides are also now part the Paddle the Gulf website, which is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Friends member Beth Dieveney, initiated contact between Friends and NOAA. Becky Allee, a senior scientist at NOAA made this happen. Thanks to both Beth and Becky!
On Thursday, May 4, 76 4th graders from Old Town poured off their two school buses into the parking lot at Shell Mound ready for adventure.
Over the next several hours, they completed five Learning Stations at Shell Mound:
Six teachers and volunteers from the school, two bus drivers, four members of the Refuge staff, two archaeology graduate students, two Marine Animal Stranding and Rescue biologists, and 13 additional Friends' volunteers worked with the students to help them get to know the Refuge.
Having endured hours of abundant no-seeums and having met all the requirements, the students were sworn in by Deputy Refuge Manager John Stark as Lower Suwannee Refuge Junior Rangers and given their badges by Refuge Forester Daniel Barrand, Refuge Engineering Equipment Operators Jason Coates and George Pelt, and the other volunteers.
Providing the needed workbooks for this and another possible Junior Ranger Day in June was at the top of Friends Wish List in April. Thanks to Friends member John Douglass for fulfilling our big wish.
In early May, Friends Past President Debbie Meeks and Deputy Refuge Manager John Stark participated in the 2023 National Friends Workshop. It was held at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.
One representative from each Friends group around the country was invited, as well as one Refuge staff member from each. About 250 attended.
There were 6-8 concurrent sessions to choose from in each 90 minute time block. Debbie's favorite was the Subtle Differences Between Friends and Volunteers, in which they were given tricky scenarios to work through, and she said her head was spinning after the first 10 minutes.
Debbie reconnected with Friends leaders from other refuges whom she had met at the smaller and more select Friends Academy last summer. She and John made new acquaintances who will be excellent networking partners for us in the future.