During the busy winter season, on both the Levy County and the Dixie County side of the Lower Suwannee NWR, a critical set of volunteers contribute many hours each week to help the Refuge staff with maintenance and logistics work. In addition to Ron Black, the local resident and Friends member who is a regular volunteer presence at Shell Mound, camper volunteers Charlie Adkins and Carolyn Nobbs and Dusty and Cathy Dusterwinkle stay in their personal RVs on refuge property and working on projects to free staff for other tasks that might be less urgent but more mission-critical.
Over the winter they put in more than 2000 hours, picked up almost 375 large trash bags of garbage, 25 tires, and 5500 aluminum cans, and worked on countless refuge projects directly benefiting wildlife habitat as well as improving visitor access. Their efforts were critical during the lapse in government funding while the refuge was closed. According to staff members, they are kind and grounded people with a passion for improving the natural resources of the refuges.
Now it is time for the camper volunteers to return home. Last week, in appreciation for all their help, the staff members feted them at a luncheon cooked by heavy equipment expert Jason Coates and refuge forester Daniel Barrand.