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By MARY OWENS
Refuge Youth Ambassador
Within the past few weeks thousands upon thousands of college students migrated to the beaches for Spring Break. Nineteen students, involved with Alternative Break Corps, traveled to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to volunteer their time.
The first group of students to arrive at St. Marks drove from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. The group was 12 students strong and ready to work! After a tour of the refuge and an introduction into the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they began work on building three raised-bed gardens for Wakulla Pre-School.
These gardens will be used as a way to get children interested in nature and science.
The students built and installed the garden frames, leveled the ground, and mixed soil.
As they worked they also answered questions from inquisitive pre-schoolers who were very excited about the gardens. When this project was completed they headed out to the refuge to help keep it clean.
They walked nine miles worth of road in search of trash. After this, they then sorted and recycled what they had collected.
The second Alternative Spring Break Corps crew came from Southern Methodist University in Texas. They experienced two time changes and still managed to be ready to work!
Like the first group they also experienced a tour and introduction. After this they proceeded to help build a new butterfly garden near Picnic Pond on the refuge.
With the help of the Apalachee Audubon Society and the students, St. Marks will now have another garden to attract Monarch Butterflies during their migration. SMU’s second job was helping to rid the refuge of old barbed wire fencing along Surf Road.
Not only was it an eyesore, it was harmful to wildlife. With this in mind the students tore down miles of old barbed wire. To date, 4.3 miles of barbed wire has been cleared from the road.
After all the hard work both Alternative Spring Break crews enjoyed a luncheon and free day. Some headed to the beach while others kayaked. They even got to experience some of the natural wonders in the area such as Wakulla
Springs or hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail. Their efforts are greatly appreciated by all at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
We encourage the community to come out and see the new garden at the refuge.
It will be exciting to see how the gardens develop over time.