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Once again, after donating over 500 hours during the calendar year, Ron Black, volunteer caretaker of Shell Mound, is Volunteer of the Year at Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges for the third year in a row. You could say Black is a workaholic, because he can’t just kick-back and enjoy retirement.
Ron Black volunteers like he is still on duty after retiring 15 years ago from a long career in teaching Natural Resources Management and Interpretive Services at Hocking College in Ohio. During their retirement years, he and wife Christine worked fire-tower duty in Yellowstone National Park for two summers.Minimalist living of fire-tower life and very little contact with the public led to their volunteering locally at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and the State Museum. Then, Ron found the Lower Suwannee NWR needed help and came to the rescue. Shell Mound is now his second home.
Every old friend of the family, who comes to visit the Blacks for any length of time, ends up joining Ron at Shell Mound as he welcomes visitors to the popular recreation. Ron interprets the latest archaeological findings, maintains the trails and fishing pier. He also recruits local friends and family.
His latest project, in addition to Shell Mound, is the upkeep of the beautiful archaeological site, Shired Island on the Gulf in Dixie County. Sitting next to a county campground, it is highly visited and used for fishing from the seawall, dropping vessels in at the boat ramp, and hiking out to the beach. A total of 10 hours a week dedicated to the recreation site, keeps Black even busier. His donated hours will climb by leaps and bounds from the nearly 600 a year he offered-up for the past three years.
Black will receive a third 500 hours pin from the US Fish & Wildlife Service as well as an America the Beautiful Pass for his passionate service.
Interested in joining Ron Black and the others who donate time to make the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge a better place? Call the Volunteer Coordinator at 352/493-0238, ext 223.