January 30, 2007

Four volunteers and an equestrian group who work with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Land Resources Volunteer Program were presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor that recognizes volunteer dedication and signifies that each volunteer has served the community and country with distinction.

The volunteers received their awards Tuesday at the District’s January Governing Board meeting in Brooksville.

Elizabeth Shupe and Merrill Firmani are teenage members of the South Creek Equestrian Riders, an equestrian club based out of Dade City. The club helps maintain trails, campgrounds, picnic sites and public entrances in the District’s Upper and Lower Hillsborough Tracts. Last year Shupe contributed 68 volunteer hours and Firmani contributed 65 volunteer hours.

“It is encouraging to see young people gaining an appreciation of public lands through volunteering,” said Fritz Muselmann, land resources director.

Sonny and Carol Mattice are a married couple who serve as Lake Panasoffkee campground hosts. The Mattices assist with cutting, trimming and mowing on the grounds. They also greet visitors and provide them with information about the recreational opportunities available. Last year Sonny and Carol Mattice each contributed 194 volunteer hours.

The WYME Trailblazers is a Tampa area equestrian club. The club helps maintain horseback riding trails at the Jefferson Equestrian Area, which is part of the District’s Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area and Wilderness Park. Last year the group accumulated 208 volunteer hours.

There are approximately 300 volunteers involved with the District’s Land Resources Volunteer Program. These volunteers play an important role in maintaining the District’s many recreational trails and campgrounds.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award is presented through the “Take Pride in Florida/Take Pride in America” program. Each volunteer or group will receive a congratulatory letter from President George Bush, a congratulatory letter from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participants, a formal award certificate and a commemorative pin.

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