Volunteers are a valuable resource for the District, which is why several groups and one individual who take part in the District’s Land Resources Volunteer Program were recognized at the Governing Board’s August and September meetings.
The Flatlanders, Southcreek Equestrians, Florida Trail Association, Withlapopka Community Volunteers, West Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Kyle DeVary were presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award — a national honor that recognizes volunteer dedication. Together, they completed a total of 7,257 hours in one year.
According to the Points of Light Foundation, a nationwide volunteer network clearing house, volunteers save the District between $10 and $18 an hour in labor costs for each hour they work. That means the volunteers who were honored saved the District between $72,725 to $130,989.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is awarded through the “Take Pride in Florida/Take Pride in America” program. Each volunteer or group received a congratulatory letter from President George W. Bush, a congratulatory letter from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participants, a formal award certificate and a commemorative pin.
Jack Pheathan accepted the President’s Volunteer Service Award from Eric Sutton, Land Resources Department assistant director, on behalf of the Southcreek Equestrians, an equestrian club from Pasco County. The group, which accumulated 1,243 volunteer hours, was recognized for continuing to help maintain quality equestrian trails and public-use areas. Properties they help maintain include the Oakridge equestrian area in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Park, the Alston Tract at the Upper Hillsborough property and the Gilley Creek Tract in the Ed Chance Reserve in Manatee County. Maintenance includes cutting, trimming and mowing vegetation on District lands. The Southcreek Equestrians have received previous awards from this program.
Mike Carroll and Lou Moser accepted the President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of the West Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America. This group accumulated 1,055 volunteer hours. The group learned about an old cabin in a remote area of the District’s Green Swamp West property near the Withlacoochee River. The cabin was acquired with the land purchase and has historical value. The Boy Scout group offered to maintain it in exchange for its use during camping events. The group improved the cabin’s plumbing, electric and exterior to make it useable. The group also maintains the cabin and grounds by cutting, trimming and mowing vegetation. The site, now referred to as the Big Foot Wilderness Camp, is available for public use.
Kyle DeVary, a Hernando County student at Parrott Middle School, is pictured with his mom, Kim; brother, Michael; and dad, Butch. His parents, who work at the District, encouraged his strong interest in conservation lands. DeVary contributed 80 volunteer hours during the construction of the Withlapopka Nature Park, located within the Flying Eagle property in Citrus County. He picked up trash, cleared away debris and brush, and installed picnic tables, grills and trash cans. He also helped establish a trail at the park, which he maintains at least twice a year. DeVary has also helped maintain trails on other District lands.
The Withlapopka Community Volunteers is a group of about 30 residents who live near the District’s Flying Eagle property in Citrus County. The group accumulated 1,285 hours by helping the District create and maintain the Withlapopka Nature Park on a portion of the Flying Eagle property. Volunteer efforts include picking up trash and clearing away debris and brush, as well as installing picnic tables, grills and trash cans. The group also helped create a park trail network by selecting an appropriate trail and erecting trail markers.
Andrew Quagliana accepted the President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of the Florida Trail Association, a group of about 42 volunteers that have been working with the District since the early 1980s to develop and maintain quality hiking trails on several District properties. The group, which is primarily responsible for developing the Florida National Scenic Trail, was behind the designation of 34 miles of National Scenic Trail through District lands in the Green Swamp. The group is being recognized for the 2,704 volunteer hours spent maintaining hiking trails in the Green Swamp, Upper Hillsborough and Potts Preserve properties.
The Flatlanders is an equestrian club from Polk County. The group, which accumulated 890 volunteer hours, was recognized for its continuing work to maintain public-use opportunities at the Hampton Tract in Green Swamp East. Members assisted with cutting, trimming and mowing vegetation on the property and helped create a campground and scenic riding trails for public recreation users. The group also continues to contribute a substantial number of volunteer hours to keep several trails on District lands accessible. The Flatlanders have received previous awards from this program.