Springing Into Action! NWF Volunteers Take on Bald Point State Park

from Wildlife Promise

A dreary forecast of 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms did not scare away National Wildlife Federation’s committed volunteers this past weekend! As the clouds rolled in Saturday morning so did 20 volunteers eager to begin planting and seeding at Bald Point State Park on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Volunteers traveled from as far as Cape Coral – 400 miles away – to roll up their sleeves and get to work!  Florida Wildlife Federation also joined us from Tallahassee to engage in the days activities and also had available a petition to sign for a constitutional amendment to prohibit oil and gas drilling in Florida’s near-shore waters.

NWF volunteers raking the soil and planting wiregrass seed

Engulfed in a faint familiar campfire aroma, Park Ranger Kevin Patton welcomed us to Bald Point State Park and introduced us to its complex ecosystems. Known as the “lightning capital of the world,” Florida frequently has natural wildfires.  Subsequently, Florida is home to many fire adapted and dependent species, and Kevin thoroughly explained the importance of prescribed burns at the park, informing us that, “wiregrass will only produce viable seed if you burn it through lightning season — May through July.”

Halfway through the day, we gathered for every volunteers’ favorite pastime – lunch!  We took the opportunity to cool down, fuel up and get to know one another on a personal level. During this time, we discovered amongst us a professor, a PhD student, a cave diver and a full time mom—and perhaps most remarkably, a couple married for over 48 years!

Hardworking couple Phil and Cecilia

Their tip for a long, healthy marriage?  Volunteer together as often as possible! Cecilia enlightened us, “Marriage is all about working towards a common goal. That’s the same attitude we have towards the volunteer work we do together. Why stay home and get old when we get out and make a difference?”

Park Ranger Kevin Patton with a box of wiregrass plugs ready to be planted

After lunch, our volunteers plowed full steam ahead, finishing the planting of more than 5,000 wiregrass plugs, exceeding the Park rangers’ expectation for the entire weekend!

While rain is seldom seen as a positive in the world of volunteerism, the overnight thunderstorms couldn’t have been better timed; watering our recently planted grass plugs, leaving us with the perfect conditions to lay down raw seeds. No-see-ums’ (tiny biting bugs that can quickly become the bane of a volunteer’s existence) were out in full force, but that didn’t stop our hard working volunteers from showing up enthusiastic and ready to work on day two.

Marshland nearby kept us all alert as alligators and black bears call this land home.  Much time was spent discussing the hypothetical “what if’s?” and as the weekend was winding down, we were thrilled and relieved that our only encounter was with little spring peeper frogs. After the last grass plugs were planted, the last seed scattered and the last tuft of wiregrass trimmed, we spent time reflecting on the past two days.

Photo taken by volunteer Walter Pickel

As the sun set on our last day, we all left the park with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and a greater knowledge of the local forest ecology.  In the end, we all had a better understanding of how our work fit into the larger restoration picture, and left with a well deserved (and gratifying) feeling of fatigue, which made our bug bites itch a bit less and the soreness in our legs a lot more tolerable.

Read this news article for additional details about our experience at Bald Point State Park!

Join NWF at our next event at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park or at a event later this spring! Learn more on the NWF website.