31 July 2010
PERCEPTION -NOT PRESENCE OF OIL
If you are reading this as a visitor to our area, the Forgotten coastline communities thank you for spending time with us. The negative effects of the oil spill on our lives have not been from the presence of oil, but from the perception of its presence. As of this writing our beaches are tar-less, our vacation rental accommodations are as comfy as ever, our restaurants are serving time-honored succulent seafood dishes and the fishing has never been better. Enjoy your stay. Our businesses appreciate your business.
If you are in the area, here are three dates that may be of interest to you. On August 14 and 15, and September 25, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is waiving the entrance fee to the refuge in recognition of America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The AGO Initiative “promotes and supports innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors,” according to a White House publication. The AGO Initiative, enacted by the Obama Administration, encourages people, “especially children.” to get out and enjoy America’s rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms, forests, parks, coasts and beaches. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1931 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds, offers an array of the outdoor amenities named in the AGO Initiative.
Encompassing 68,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties, the SMNWR includes coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks and estuaries of seven north Florida rivers. Almost 80% of Wakulla’s shoreline is in the refuge boundaries. The historic St. Marks Lighthouse, built in 1832, is located in the refuge and is still in use today.
Another goal of the AGO Initiative is to educate and engage Americans in our “history, culture and natural bounty.” The SMNWR offers several educational programs and activities throughout the year, and with the new environmental education building, currently under construction thanks to stimulus funds, the refuge will be able to offer even more. Completion of the building is slated for April 2011.
The AGO Initiative is also focused on enacting strategies throughout the country to support the conservation of “land, water, wildlife, and historic and cultural resources.” AGO Initiative “listening sessions” are being held in many states to help define these strategies. And, people may record their thoughts on an AGO Initiative website. The Administration wants to hear about strategies already being used to encourage Americans to enjoy the outdoors, new ideas to encourage families to engage in outdoor recreational pursuits and strategies to better conserve our natural and cultural resources.
For more information about America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and to convey your thoughts, visit http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/. For more information about St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, drive or bicycle Wakulla County Road 59 to the refuge. Continue your journey on Refuge Road to the Lighthouse. Look around. Enjoy our great outdoors. And don’t forget to bring the children.