Do you know why these flightless Grasshoppers are called “Lubbers?” Watch this episode of Animal Encounters to learn this and other cool facts about the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper from Daggerwing Nature Center staff!
Okeeheelee Nature Center, through the Friends of ONC, was recently honored to receive a grant from the Gopher Tortoise Council. The Donna J. Heinrich Environmental Education Grant was established to support organizations committed to developing educational projects about the gopher tortoise and the fascinating world in which it lives. Gopher tortoises are protected in Florida, and are considered a keystone species because the burrows they dig provide shelter to many other animals. Over 350 commensal species have been recorded in gopher tortoise burrows, especially during the periodic wildfires that are part of life in gopher tortoise habitats.
Protecting gopher tortoises, and teaching visitors about them, has always been an important part of ONC’s educational mission. Gopher tortoises have been living at Okeeheelee Nature Center since 1985, when 83 tortoises were relocated to the nature center’s pine flatwood forest from a retail construction site. Today, there are 90 to 100 gopher tortoises living in ONC’s preserve, including many of the original tortoises from the 1980s. They are commonly encountered by hikers and other nature center visitors, so education is key to ensuring that the tortoises and their habitat are respected.
Alex Melligon has been an Assistant Naturalist at Okeeheelee Nature Center since February of 2019. Her regular duties include animal care, teaching school and public programs, creating educational content, and interacting with visitors. When asked what she likes best about her job, Alex said, “I like that we can follow our curiosity. If we have an idea for a program or project, we are able to use our talents and creativity to explore, incorporate our interests and reach new audiences.” Since COVID-19 has put ONC’s in-person programming on hiatus and closed the nature center building, special project work has become the focus.
As luck would have it, the proposal for the Gopher Tortoise Council grant included two projects that were planned with Alex’s special talents in mind. You see, in addition to her skills as a naturalist, Alex is also a gifted artist! Since childhood, she has been interested in arts and crafts, including drawing, jewelry making, ceramics, and textiles. Alex explained, “To me, art is a fun way to express myself, and it’s a good feeling to create something with my hands, especially if it’s something useful.”
The first grant-funded project Alex took on was to design an educational gopher tortoise booklet for children. The ONC team helped brainstorm ideas for activities and content, and then Alex researched tortoise facts, wrote the text and drew all of the pages by hand. Through puzzles, games, reading, and coloring, the booklet helps children learn about the importance of gopher tortoises and how they can help protect them.
When asked what aspect of the project she was most proud of, Alex said, “I think the best part of the activity book is that it gives simple, concrete things for people to do to help tortoises, while also providing the whys behind it, and still being fun and engaging for kids.” The activity book will be available to children visiting the nature center and participating in any special programs that focus on gopher tortoises.
Alex’s second artistic endeavor took her a bit further out of her comfort zone. Another component of the grant was to create a 10 x 4.5 foot mural depicting life inside a gopher tortoise burrow. Alex said it was a challenge because, although she has always loved doing art, “I didn’t really consider myself a painter, and I had certainly never attempted a large mural.” However, she still remembers being fascinated by the beautiful ecosystem murals at her local nature center while growing up in New Jersey, so she was hopeful that she could create art that would have a similar lasting impact on Okeeheelee’s visitors.
Looking at how well the project turned out, no one would ever guess that this was her first attempt at a large scale painting! The mural features a tortoise at the entrance of a burrow that is opened in cross-section to show the burrow structure. It also highlights key features of tortoise habitat, including beneficial native plant species, and shows several commensal animal species that can be found inside tortoise burrows.
The mural provides a unique glimpse into the underground life of a gopher tortoise and the ecosystem it helps support. Since it is a visual education piece, it will spark curiosity and convey information to all ages and all types of learners. It will be displayed in ONC’s Children’s Discovery Zone, but it will also be mobile so it can be featured during programs and special events.
Alex explains that, “Teaching children about nature is important to me because I believe it is our best chance to keep our environment safe and maybe even make it better in the future.” She hopes these gopher tortoise projects inspire the next generation of young artists and conservationists in the same way she was inspired by the murals she saw as a child. Alex brings so much passion for the environment to Okeeheelee Nature Center, whether she is teaching, caring for animals, supporting operations, or contributing through her artistic talents.
All of her coworkers and volunteers feel very fortunate to have her as part of the ONC team!
Submitted by: Heather Moody, Okeeheelee Nature Center Manager
Carlito was known to “do it all”. He not only helped everyday at Green Cay Nature Center maintaining the boardwalk, cleaning, landscaping and more, but he was always willing to lend a hand with animal care and
special projects, and he became a very strong advocate for wildlife conservation. Carlito attended every special event, and was at the nature center every single day.
Being at Green Cay for over 7 years and dedicating nearly 6,500 hours of service, there is so much that Carlito needs be recognized for. He was always dependable and would show up every single day to assist in maintenance of Green Cay Nature Center. No physical task was too much. He would always enthusiastically lend a helping hand. Whether it was fixing something, installing a new nest box, or cleaning up trash in the entire parking lot, Carlito became an asset to our volunteer family.
Always smiling and willing to share with others his latest wildlife discovery, he loved nature and loved to share this passion with every visitor. Carlito was never afraid to get his hands dirty! Working at a nature center is tough work! It is very physically demanding at times,
working in the Florida sun for hours cutting back trees and debris; it is no easy task. Carlito completed these tasks along with positively interacting with the public. He loved taking photographs of reptiles, birds, bobcats, and the staff members daily! Carlito would love helping out with all of our animal ambassadors at Green Cay, but his favorite, of course, is Oliver the Eastern Screech-Owl.
He was high energy, hard working, dependable, and honest. Carlito has all the qualities ideal in a volunteer and will be truly missed!
What is the biggest personal benefit he received as a volunteer with our department? “Working with great people everyday, especially the other volunteers, has built friendships and experiences that will be remembered always. All the experiences I have had with the animal ambassadors and wildlife has built my appreciation for them as well as the importance of sharing with others how we all benefit by protecting them.”
Interesting facts about Carlito: Carlito is unique in the fact that he is a Deaf individual, proud of his culture. Working as a volunteer at Green Cay, we see that this is no obstacle or something to overcome, but simply a part of his personality. He has never held back expressing himself and communicating with staff, volunteers, or visitors. Carlito loved to teach us Sign and we tried to learn a few things each day. He is high energy! And always smiling! And we see how much he absolutely enjoyed coming to Green Cay daily. He has moved to Puerto Rico with his dad, Carlos Padilla, who recently retired from Green Cay Nature Center. Carlito has set a high bar for our future maintenance volunteers! We wish him all the best in his new adventure and thank him ever so much for his dedication to Green Cay Nature Center.
This year’s Purple Martin (Progne subis) nesting season at Daggerwing Nature Center was a success! In the second year since our nest houses were installed as part of an Eagle Scout project, we have noted an increase in our nesting population and the number of fledglings produced.
The first Purple Martin of the season was seen on February 14, 2020 and nesting was apparent on March 7. The first recorded egg was noted on April 4. In total, there were 39 eggs laid throughout the season and 26 fledglings were successfully raised. This total success rate of 66.7% is higher than the 40% seen in 2019! The nest houses were occupied until vacated on June 19, 2020. We are hoping for an even busier nesting season next year!
In honor of Park and Recreation Month 2020, PBC Parks is celebrating the theme, “We are Parks and Recreation” by spotlighting the countless staff who provide essential services to help make their communities better places to live, work and play. Below, you can read about some of the dedicated staff who help build a sense of community and contribute to the wellbeing of the park system every day through programs, day-to-day operations and exceptional customer service!
Mary Annalora has been a PBC Park employee for 10 months. She is the Senior Secretary for our Aquatics Division. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, answering many incoming calls with extra questions on COVID-19. She has acted as a liaison with permitee’s obtaining necessary CDC guidelines and COVID-19 parent releases for Aquatics summer camps. When our administration building was closed to the public, she retrieved regular mail to process boat permits, forwarding to customer service staff. She also scans and processes documents, payroll for approval and forwards information to other departments.
Some feedback she has received from visitors includes, people expressing their joy to be able to walk through the parks again or just sit and read. Besides questions on the parks, people usually want to tell her about their family outings they are planning. The friendly voice of wishing people a fun time and telling them to enjoy their day goes a long way!
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “Although we have a great website, people still like the one-on-one phone call contact to answer their questions. I do my best to provide extra information such as how to navigate the website and handy phone numbers for other departments. I have listened with a sympathetic ear from people who wish to vent regarding COVID-19 rules and issues. I have always been thanked when our call has ended.”
Bibi Baksh-Pabion has been a PBC Park employee for 5 years. She is a Public Relations Specialist for our Office of Public Engagement. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, video production, media outreach, speaking engagements & public outreach, podcast production and host, and blog & PBC Parks TV management. During COVID-19, there is less in-person outreach, and more virtual engagement (education, creative content).
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is through her video and podcast production; she is constantly hearing and sharing stories of positive visitor experiences – and there’s been such a variety through the years! It’s abundantly clear that anyone can enjoy our park system – nature lovers, hobbyists, athletes, families, seniors… parks do not discriminate and they have the power to change our lives, health, and outlooks. A simple pattern of spending weekends at the park with your family can create a bonding experience that can last a lifetime… participating in nature and recreational programs can change your outlooks and passions… taking up a sport in our parks can improve your academic performance and mental and physical health. The benefits are endless.
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “Effective communication is a significant part of any organization. Parks are so beneficial for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and there are so many ways to enjoy our park system; without effectively communicating these messages in the creative ways that we do, I feel our community would be at a heavy loss for ways to improve their health and lives. We provide a means for education, conservation, and experiences – as well as an outlet for patrons to reach out for exceptional assistance.”
“I work with a truly passionate group of Park and Recreation professionals!”
Lila Varel Capra
Lila Varel Capra has been a PBC Park employee for almost 5 years. She is a Naturalist/Volunteer Coordinator at our Daggerwing Nature Center with our Recreation Services Division. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, being a curator for the animal ambassadors (owl, opossum, tortoise, snakes, etc.), the lead educator for environmental & recreation programs, and the manager of their volunteer team. The amount of work that needs accomplishing hasn’t changed with COVID-19, it just differed. Luckily, she has a great manager, Sean Mallee, as a role model in the workplace. Sean has mentored her since she started as a volunteer in 2014 while he was Naturalist/Volunteer Coordinator. The both of them have since moved up in their work positions; and they are continuously learning how to serve our community with environmental education as well as by leading recreational activities like butterfly gardening, archery, or fishing.
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, everyday when she drives into work at Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, she is greeted by birds singing and people recreating. She sees people of all ages and abilities enjoying our biking trails, relaxing in our open spaces, and enjoying company of their loved ones. Some individuals come every day and sit at their favorite spot. Others meet their friends weekly here for their favorite games in our open spaces. She feels very blessed to witness her community enjoying themselves, thanks to the beautiful amenities and services provided.
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “I have the pleasure of educating curious guests on the flora and fauna we see in our environment every day. Many of us lead busy lives, motivated by accomplishment and productivity. When I get to enjoy a leisurely conversation with a guest about how a certain species of bird or butterfly interacts with the plants that surround us, I feel blessed to contribute to pointing out wonderous things in our world that are often overlooked. ”
We live in a culture that values productivity above all else. But we are human-beings, not human-doings. The value of recreation seems impossible to estimate, but she believe it is necessary to live a healthy life. With the dedication of Parks & Recreation professionals, hard working people can find serenity watching the birds at the lake or playing ball with their children. From the employee who maintains the landscape to the employee who oversees construction and repair to the employee who teaches children new skills, our contributions to the wellness of our community is immeasurable.
Damian Figueredo has been a PBC Park employee for 19 years. He is the Revenue Supervisor for our Financial & Support Services Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, leading a team that collects and audits revenue for the department’s multiple facilities. During COVID-19, they have had to process an unusually high number of refunds for canceled events. Additionally, they stopped accepting cash and expanded our online payment options.
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, he sees the increase in revenues due to the popularity of our parks and programs. Our visitors find PBC Parks to be “good value for the money.” Naturally, we would prefer to provide everything for free, but that is not realistic at this time.
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “The community can rest assured that we are handling all funds with the highest standards and our department is in compliance with all County PPMs and State tax codes. This accounting work may be less visible to visitors but these “behind-the-scenes” activities ensure proper safeguards of County and taxpayer funds.”
With every money decision they make, they try to analyze the impact to our customers and our staff to arrive at a balanced solution.
Rich Fleming has been a PBC Park employee for 29.5 years. He is a Recreation Specialist III at our CMAA Therapeutic Recreation Complex with our Recreation Services Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, directing the Special Olympics Program in Palm Beach County with close to 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities. This includes fund raising, public relations and together with staff, they coordinate training, competitions and local program initiatives throughout the County. Under COVID-19, he had some limited involvement in virtual programming and engagement while staff have handled their County duties and coordinated our mission and efforts.
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, the many athletes that come out to train and compete in our Parks and related facilities. From utilizing the County pools to train and compete in swimming, the Golf Courses to practice and compete in golf skills and on-course play, the tennis courts to train in tennis skills, singles and doubles. The County Park waterways are utilized to sail, stand up paddle, surf and open water swim as well the T-Rec Center Gym for volleyball and basketball. Through the County Parks, as part of the partnership with Special Olympics, the benefits our athletes receive are endless.
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “I feel that we are making a difference in the lives of our athletes and families every day as we provide a platform for sports training and athletic competitions for people with disabilities. I feel that we provide the opportunity for participation in sports in a safe and fair environment where the athletes can reach their goals and be excited about their accomplishments. Volunteers get exposure and fulfillment in assisting our athletes strive for success. When you come out to support, coach or volunteer with Special Olympics, you truly witness the passion of sports!”
The Parks & Recreation professionals in the Therapeutic Recreation Section provide a valuable and much needed service for people with disabilities within the community. Our section offers programs in a variety of recreational areas such as sports, arts, social and therapeutic for all types of disabilities. The comprehensive nature of our programming and the specialize training of our staff creates an environment of inclusion and acceptance for all. Our staff are well respected in the field as well as in the community.
Ryan Gilbert has been a PBC Park employee for 16 years. He is the Special Olympics Manager of Sports and Training at the Special Olympics Gym or our CMAA Therapeutic Recreation Complex with our Recreation Services Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include being in constant contact with his Special Olympic Coaches and their amazing Special Olympic Athletes. Special Olympics PBC offers 17 sports for their athletes to compete in throughout the year. So with that many sports going on, they have quite a bit of cross-over. Since COVID-19, he’s had the opportunity to do some park/beach monitoring, take the temperature of his co-workers in the a.m., and help out with garbage clean up around the TR complex!
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, during county park monitoring when the parks opened again to the public, he could really tell how happy people were to be able to get back out to the parks. He knows the heart trail was packed and people were excited to get outside and exercise again, but also did good job social distancing. The same goes for the beach monitoring, the patrons were so happy to get back out to the ocean and get their zen back!
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “our Special Olympics athletes take full advantage of a number of our county parks or facilities, our athletes use a couple of our county pools for training. Our S.O. softball teams compete and train at John Prince Park Softball Fields. We have 3 teams that train here at our Special Olympics Gym, and one other group trains at West Boynton Rec. Center. We have an amazing sailing program at Okeeheelee Park. And finally our Special Olympics golf program trains and competes at Okeeheelee Golf Course. I would like to thank all of those municipalities for making a difference and giving our athletes an amazing place to train, compete, and grow. ”
Rick Hedlund has been a PBC Park employee for 22 years. He is a Landscape Architect for our Planning, Research & Development Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, site designs & planning for new or improvements to existing facilities, the review of consults design & construction drawings, construction drawings and specifications for smaller construction projects, coordinate with other agencies and departments on their projects that impact our parks, and EOA3 coordinator-related duties, organizing EOA3 staff as needed to address the logistic needs at the Ball Park of the Palm Beaches.
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is park visitors running, playing, jumping, walking, picnicking, enjoying, animal & bird watching, social interaction of recreation activity of all so many forms of passive and active recreation.
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “It is part of the whole that gives our constituents a place to recreate.”
Julia Leo has been a PBC Park employee for 31 years. She is an Ocean Rescue Chief for our Aquatics/Ocean Rescue Division. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, managing and evaluating Ocean Rescue services, operation, staffing, and training, ensuring Ocean Rescue districts have sufficient staffing, equipment, facilities, and communication flow between staff, administration, and the public.
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is whether standing, sitting or walking, people at the beach explore. They explore creatures in and out of the water. They recreate by swimming, wading, surfing, fishing, kayaking, SUP, running, snorkeling, sun bathing, meeting with friends, bird watching, watching sunrises, etc.
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “patrons visit the beach to relax, exercise, and relieve stress. The lifeguard staff prevents catastrophic injuries, and educates visitors on dangerous ocean and environmental conditions. Patrons feel safe knowing that a well-trained equipped Ocean Rescue lifeguard is ready to respond to any water or medical emergency. Visitors experience joy and make memories.”
Sean Mallee has been a PBC Park employee for 8 years. He is the Manager of Daggerwing Nature Center for our Recreation Services Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, maintaining the daily nature center building operations, curating the animal collection, scheduling programs, room rentals, and staff, payroll, ordering supplies, communicating program schedules and monthly activities through media outlets including social media and engaging the Friends of Daggerwing board. During COVID-19, they were part of the reopening process for the parks and beaches. This meant making observations and educating the public on new policies to safely enjoy these areas. They also transitioned to virtual feeding presentations instead of having the daily live audience. While the nature center is closed, you can still watch their live feeding presentations through Daggerwing’s Facebook page!
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, when guests first visit Daggerwing Nature Center they are really impressed, calling our facility the “hidden gem” of Palm Beach County. However, we are in the center of a large park (Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park) and have been in existence since 1996. Our themed exhibit hall does provide a unique experience through a natural Florida wetland with live animals, interactive displays, and educational videos to help narrate the journey. Many visitors like to wander around our certified butterfly garden in front of the nature center, sneaking up on these beneficial insects to take the perfect photograph. He also likes to see visitors to Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park utilizing the many amenities the park has to walk, bike, roller blade, work out, swim, fish, boat, explore nature, listen to live music, exercise their dog, and play basketball, volley ball, tennis, golf or other sports.
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “Through my position, I am able to provide guests with a positive and engaging experience at Daggerwing Nature Center. Guests often comment how they love the animals and our amazing programs. They are always excited to come back and visit!”
Palm Beach County parks offer a variety of recreational options to create a perfect day of health and wellness. Whatever you enjoy doing with your free time, you can probably do it through PBC Parks & Recreation!
Nicki Murphy has been a PBC Park employee for 20 years. She is a Financial Analyst II for our Finance & Support Services Division. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, procurement manager and supervision of staff, department liaison with purchasing, finance, OEBO, etc.
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is when she is driving around and sees a family tossing a frisbee or kids laughing & playing in a splashpad. She finds satisfaction knowing that “because you do your job, others in the community can enjoy our parks.”
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “we strive to do our jobs and fulfill orders so that others can do their jobs well. This includes getting supplies from paperclips to sand, and services from janitorial through maintenance & repair of water park slides, etc.”
Casey Pranckun has been a PBC Park employee for 11 years. She is a Landscape Architect for our Planning, Research & Development Division. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, planning and designing new parks, park improvements, and park renovations. She has been fortunate to continue planning and design relatively uninterrupted throughout COVID-19.
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, with our office located inside the boundaries of John Prince Park, she sees on a daily basis how the park is utilized and loved by visitors. Almost every time she makes a site visit to one of our parks, curious patrons are not shy about offering their support and input.
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “Creating a safe, well programmed, distinctly unique and esthetically pleasing space generates human connections to the outdoors and heightens the overall park experience for visitors.”
Parks and recreation professionals do what we do because we genuinely care about connecting people with opportunities that help them to be happy and healthy. Parks keep kids out of trouble, raise property values, and proven to have tremendous health benefits for the people who live near them. Whether we are maintaining the grounds, working at beaches and pools, organizing sports, camps and events, or planning a new park, she feels proud of what we as a team provide to our community.
Mike Steele has been a PBC Park employee for 16 years. He is the Customer Service Supervisor for our Financial & Support Services Division. Some tasks he is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, leading a team that provides excellent customer service for the department’s internal and external customers. During COVID-19, they have had to process an unusually high number of refunds for canceled group-pavilion rentals. The volume of phone inquiries has increased as well.
Some ways he sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is, he has noticed the increase in customer inquiries due to the popularity of our group pavilions, boat ramps and programs. Our visitors find PBC Parks to be “good value for the money.” Naturally, we would prefer to provide everything for free, but that is not realistic at this time.
How he feels his job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “The community can rest assured that we are handling all requests with the highest level of customer satisfaction. This front-line work is critical to ensuring that people in the community form a positive opinion about our department.”
With every customer contact they make, they try to be as helpful as possible so our customers and our staff get the information they need.
Stephanie Surrena has been a PBC Park employee for 8 years. She is a Public Relations Specialist for our Office of Public Engagement. Some tasks she is responsible for under normal operations and during COVID-19 include, handling department social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and web edits for the department website, taking photos at department events and programs, editing GameChanger, our newsletter for department employees and volunteers, reviewing and approving all department marketing material and assists in editing and designing marketing material when needed, producing our e-newsletter What’s Happening in PBC Parks, being the department mascot Oakly at outreach events and overall assisting where needed on her team.
During COVID-19, her focus has been website edits, keeping up to date with what’s open and closed within our department, and social media, informing the public about what’s open and closed and sharing content to help with overall mental health (exercise videos, nature photos, etc.) during such unprecedented times.
Some ways she sees visitors enjoying our parks and taking advantage of the benefits of the park system is with social media. She often asks the public for comments and photos about how they enjoy their park system. Photos range from park selfies, nature shots, animals spotted at the park, and selfies while at a program or event in our park or facility. Comments vary from why they love a specific park to how their favorite park is their “go-to” spot for happiness and wellness.
How she feels her job impacts the community and visitor experiences inside PBC Parks: “Between social media posts and website edits, I always do my best to make sure the public is informed on what’s happening in PBC Parks. With over 80 parks and a handful of amenities, the public is often amazed when they learn about new parks and amenities that they didn’t know about before. There’s also an education component too, as there are county, city and state parks. Social media is a great tool for informing the public about which parks are managed by whom. The overall message always remains the same, get outdoors and enjoy all the great well-being benefits that nature offers.”
Friends of Daggerwing Nature Center, Inc. (FOD) announced the 2020 Scott Cowan Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Megan Mui.
Megan has been a volunteer in the nature center’s gift shop since 2017 and has just graduated from North Broward Preparatory School, an AP Scholar with Distinction. She is also a 2020 National Merit winner. Megan will pursue a premed program at the University of South Florida. She plans a career in medical research in virology.
Initiated in 2017 by the Cowan family, FOD established this annual $500 scholarship to recognize outstanding student volunteers at Daggerwing Nature Center and promote their future educational goals. “We hope to both continue and expand our volunteer scholarship program to recognize and celebrate these young volunteers who make a valued contribution to our nature center”, said Edith Cowan, President of FOD, and mother of Scott Cowan for whom the scholarship is named.
Scholarship contributions to the Scott Cowan Memorial Fund can be donated to Friends of Daggerwing Nature Center, Inc.
During COVID-19 park closures, dedicated Ocean Rescue staff continue to perform their critical work. The following quote is from PBC Ocean Rescue Lifeguard Erik Pointer to Ocean Rescue Chief Julia Leo.
“Chief Leo, Just wanted to say that while working this week enforcing beach closures, I have observed many people outside of our guarded areas and some inside attempting to enter the ocean water. Relying on 25 years of marine safety, ocean rescue, and personnel management, I believe that no matter what happens in our future, people, young and old, will continue in their pursuit to be outdoors and enter the ocean. Based on my experience, we cannot leave these park beaches and communities here to fend for themselves in the ocean nor can we place that necessary responsibility on our Firefighters and/or Policemen & women. During my duties, I was able to observe a large area of coastline and make contact with a lot of these patrons and using good social distancing, I was able to educate them on the new guidelines of beach closure and risks of entering the ocean alone without a lifeguard on duty. We are the only ones out there for 10 hours per day that have the necessary advanced training in the unparalleled and high risk environment of ocean rescue and marine safety.”
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department staff are constantly springing into action – on March 30, staff helped set up the COVID-19 testing site located at FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Staff helped with this tremendous effort by filling sandbags, positioning generators, making and delivering signage, among other tasks!
“We say it all year long – parks save lives – thank for stepping up again in our community’s time of need to make a difference.” -Jennifer Cirillo, pbcParks Assistant Director
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Public Service Professionals are helping to fill much-needed roles across the county during this challenging time of general park closures. Many staff members have ventured away from their typical park-related roles in order to assist where critically needed. Here are just some of the ways staff has been assisting through various emergency and community roles:
• Staff has been deployed through the EDRP to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), including Ocean Rescue EMTs who have been screening people entering the EOC per CDC guidelines
• Recreation Programs Supervisor Cliff Battles is also at the EOC and is adeptly handling many Logistics Section and municipal mission/resource requests
• Public Relations Specialist Bibi Baksh was activated to the EOC in the Public Information Unit and helped pull together the 4:00 P.M. press conference
• Several designated EOA members from throughout the Department have also been activated to help set-up the COVID-19 Drive-through Testing Site at Fit Team Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the multiple partner agencies; the department’s sign shop is busy producing signs critical to this effort
• Several forklift drivers are assisting at the Countywide Staging Area (CSA) at the fairgrounds, where supplies from the State are coming in, being sorted and distributed to a prioritized list including hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, etc…
These roles are in addition to the thousands of less visible but critical ways staff makes a difference through answering questions, educating the public, securing parks, sharing social media experiences to provide for a moment of stress relief or to inform, maintaining natural habitats, and more.
During these unprecedented times, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department staff continue to work in various roles to serve the community. Here are just two visible examples of the amazing work that PBC Parks and Recreation professionals are up to during this challenging time of general park closure to public park use.
A mobile shower unit in partnership with non-profit “Shower the People“ is visiting the John Prince Park homeless encampment twice a week starting Saturday, March 28 to help people in need with preventative hygiene needs. Additional hand washing stations were also installed. The Park Operations, Park Rangers, Trades, JPP Maintenance Team, Special Facilities Special Events Section, and Administration teams collaborated to make this happen in short order.
Our animal ambassadors continue to need care and Daggerwing Nature Center staff brought environmental education into homes of students and adults alike: great work, Sean, Lila, and Daggerwing staff! You can view daily feeding videos of the nature center’s animals on their Facebook page.