Volunteers Participate in Unique Task on Public Lands Day

Volunteers at workLeft: Jason LaRoche, a District professional geologist and engineer, volunteered his time to gather seeds. Top: Mary Barnwell, District senior land management specialist, collects bags of seeds from volunteers at the preserve. Above: Volunteers spread out to collect seeds from a variety of natural grasses. Right: Butch DeVary, District senior heavy equipment operator, helped collect seeds during National Public Lands Day.

Picking up trash and planting trees are popular activities for volunteer workdays. But at the District’s Public Lands Day event held at the Weekiwachee Preserve in September, volunteers also collected native grass and wildflower seeds by hand.

Members of the Gulf Coast Conservancy and the Hernando County Native Plant Society, as well as District employees and their families, harvested seeds from about a dozen types of native grasses and wildflowers.

Some of the seeds, which included saw palmetto, bear grass and partridge pea, have already been sown at the Conner Preserve restoration site in Pasco County. The rest are being used in an experimental Land Resources project to determine which native plant species can be used to help stabilize the soil. This research will be used in future restoration projects.

After the event, the District volunteers joined volunteers from other Public Lands Day work sites for a picnic lunch at Bud McKethan Park in Brooksville.

“About 95 people participated in Public Lands Day at four work sites throughout the county,” said Gina Sowders, senior land use specialist. “This joint effort among the District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Hernando County Planning Department and the Hernando County Audubon Society is a successful partnership we hope to continue.”

If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer opportunities available on District lands, please call the following land use specialists: Kim DeVary for Citrus, Hernando, Marion, western Pasco and Sumter counties at (352) 279-3891; Margaret Blommel for portions of Hillsborough, eastern Pasco, and Polk counties at (352) 279-3889; and Cynthia Hausman for Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee and portions of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties at (352) 279-3887.