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The Shell Mound Unit of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, just minutes away from Cedar Key, has a new entrance kiosk as well as new trailhead kiosks, thanks to the volunteerism of long-time Refuge sportsmen. A bulletin board with fishing information will be installed at the pier in 2009. Just up County Road 347 more educational signs are posted on the Refuge Nature Drive.
Throughout the 2007 season, notices regarding the formation of a Hunter Working Group were sent out with annual permits. The Lower Suwannee NWR management team held its first such meeting in April 2008. After the group met, many hunters in attendance were interested in developing a relationship with the Refuge by volunteering. One such group exceeded all expectations.
Six hunters who drive 2 hours one way each hunting trip told Manager John Kasbohm and Assistant Manager Shannon Ludwig not to hold back, that they wanted to tackle a major project. Indeed, there was such a need. For two years, informational signs that would help visitors learn about and enjoy the Refuge more fully had been stored, awaiting placement in frames and kiosks yet to be built.
The six woodsmen from Pasco County enthusiastically offered to build the frames and kiosks for the signs. After the lumber was delivered, the group gathered one night and finished all eight of them. Dave Rusha, Charlie Hammond, Johnny Hammond, Matthew Asquith, and Don Markle sent the finished products with Richard Acreman who drove them up to the Refuge on the following day.
Since then, Lower Suwannee NWR staff has placed the colorful signs, housed in their kiosks throughout the Refuge for all to enjoy.
Whether it’s “giving back” or “paying it forward”, the ethic of volunteerism benefits the Refuge, the visiting public, and lastly, satisfies the human need to make a difference. To those fine gentlemen, the Lower Suwannee NWR thanks you for your gifts that will keep on giving.
Pam Darty is a Refuge Ranger for the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.