Fire Week at the Buffer Preserve!

It was Fire Week at the Buffer Preserve! A Burn Party!! Staff and Trainees from the Prescribed Fire Training Center helped and trained for four days this week. It was a wonderful experience with weather conditions cooperating and providing the right conditions to do the Rx burning. Others help the manager and staff of the Preserve with burns and training. Caitlin from ANERR and the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department, Volunteers from Tallahassee and St. George Island, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula and Bald Point State Park are some that assist. FL Forest Service personnel are an important component when the Buffer Preserve conducts a prescribed burn! Many thanks to all of the agencies who assist us

Friends Directors for 2016

Newly elected (March Ard, Dewey Blaylock, and Shannon Lynch) and continuing Friends Directors introduced themselves with a brief background statement at the Board of Directors Meeting on January 16, 2016, held immediately following the Annual Membership Meeting.
These are our Board members for this year:
o Dusty Alford’s business on Reid Avenue in Port St. Joe is “I Fix Computers.” Is he handy to have around, or what? Dusty has often helped with setting up and troubleshooting computers and internet for Friends. Unfortunately, he and his wife plan to move away from this area sometime in May. We’ll miss him as a Friends member and Director.
o March Ard is a retired cell biologist who taught medical school and community college in Mississippi before moving here last year. She volunteers at the Buffer Preserve and works on Friends’ email communications.
o Dewey Blaylock is a N.W. Florida native, a marine biologist and computer science entrepreneur, educated in applied mathematics. In 2002 he and his wife Patti built and opened the Sunset Coastal Grill in Port St. Joe, which they continue to run.
o Sandra Chafin is the Buffer’s administrative assistant. She began as a volunteer and became indispensable. She is a native of Port St. Joe, a former director of the Chamber of Commerce, and a retired school teacher with 29 years of teaching to her credit. She and Sonny have three grown daughters and a few really cute grandchildren who visit often.
o Sonny Chafin, Sandra’s husband, is also a Port St. Joe native and former PSJ High School football star. After a time in the Navy, he had a career in the timber industry. He volunteers at the Buffer nearly every day! Sonny is a continuing Friends Director.
o Gene Cox’s career was in helping troubled young people. He and his wife ran a residential camp for youth in Texas. They also lived for 16 years in France. He has had some interesting experiences.
o John Ehrman is a retired civil engineer. He and his wife, Penny Weining, have helped with many projects for Friends since they moved here six years ago. John is the Board’s outgoing president (serving until July), and he has done a super job!
o Lillian Hughes and her husband split their time between their home on the St. Joseph Peninsula and their original home in Thomasville, GA. Their daughter, a marine ecologist, has studied the seagrass ecology in St. Joseph Bay; she now lives with her husband in Boston, MA. They have another daughter, an occupational therapist, and a son who is an Air Force colonel. Lillian is a Turtle Patrol volunteer, an Eagle Watcher, and contributes a lot of hard work to Friends’ projects.
o Shannon Lynch is educated in geology and is interested in the geology and archaeology of this area. She volunteers with the Turtle Patrol. We appreciate her willingness to take on this new volunteer job as a Friends Director.
o Jeff Ross has remarkable computer and tech skills, and he is a big help to Friends and to the Buffer Preserve. He has recently overseen the installation of the new webcam in the observation tower at the Buffer Preserve. See the Observation Tower Webcam article in this Newsletter!
o Dylan Shoemaker is the manager of St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. Originally from Ohio, he has a B.S. in Natural Biology, with further education in Fish and Wildlife. Dylan worked for the Florida Park Service before coming to the Buffer three years ago. His wife Melissa works for St. Andrews State Park.
o Nancy Thomson grew up in the piney woods of Clay County Florida, fishing, camping and enjoying the outdoors with her family. She retired after 33 years as teacher, guidance counselor and project manager in the public school system. Later she worked for a social service agency and at the Florida Department of Education, then moved to the peninsula full time in 2010. Nancy volunteers with turtle patrol.
o Lynda White worked for Audubon Florida. She was the Eagle Watch Coordinator, and she helped rehabilitate injured eagles for release back into the wild. She presented a terrific talk about bald eagles at the Buffer Visitor Center in January and again in March. Lynda and her husband Jim have three children and four grandchildren living in Tallahassee. Lynda is our incoming Board president!

In Honor of Roy Ogles

In Honor of Roy Ogles Roy Ogles  was the first manager of the Buffer Preserve, and since then he has been the chef for Bay Day Low Country Shrimp Boils for many years. He has now retired from that volunteer position. The Preserve and the Friends want to honor him by dedicating the new webcam on the observation tower to Roy Ogles in recognition of his many years of service to the organization. Roy is already an honorary lifetime member of Friends.

Big Bay Day

Winter Bay Day on Feb. 6 The Winter Bay Day this year was a huge success! We had lots of visitors, plenty of Low Country Shrimp Boil to go around, 57 Friends volunteers, and a great band playing on the deck, the Mary and Aaron Band from Tallahassee. Displays from the Aquatic Preserve, the Audubon Society, the Florida Native Plant Society, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Constitution State Museum, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and others were popular. And for the first time, thanks to kitchen coordinator and baker Pam and two young volunteer salesladies, there were homemade cookies for sale. They were scrumptious, and very profitable! There was also a 50/50 Raffle and a Silent Auction with some very special goods donated by local businesses and craftsmen.
Overall, Winter Bay Day netted $4,115 for Friends!
THANK YOU TO ALL WHO VOLUNTEERED, INCLUDING THE CONSERVATION CORPS OF FRANKLIN COUNTY, AND TO OUR SILENT AUCTION DONORS TOO!

On-Site Volunteers

Carl Janish and his wife Pat Caruana are on-site volunteers through April. Carl and Pat are experienced in sales, and they have developed a program of annual donations from local merchants to sponsor Bay Days. Businesses are asked in the spring to make in-kind donations, such as merchandise or gift certificates, which will be used for the Silent Auctions at the next Fall and Winter Bay Days. Pat and Carl have received annual sponsorships from more than 55 generous local businesses! Pat is also a great cook and helps with occasional events at the Buffer, and both do miscellaneous odd jobs.
From November until March 31 the Buffer Preserve had long-time volunteers Joy and Dave Peterson staying in one of the RV spaces and spending lots of time improving the Buffer Center. Among other tasks, Joy paints, and Dave drives Tram Tours into the Buffer Preserve, as well as driving other Buffer vehicles when needed. They have now returned to their home in East Alton, Illinois.
Alternative spring break students from James Madison University have completed replanting of the two native plant gardens close to the Lodge. The students also helped remove invasive torpedo grass that has appeared near these gardens.

A Citizen Support Organization established to protect and preserve one of the most ecologically significant areas in the Southeastern United States