Friends of Barefoot Beach Preserve: Volunteers Supporting the Preservation of the Coastal Environment Since 1990
Jul 21, 2017 12:34PM
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Barefoot Beach Preserve.
Twenty-six years ago, three members of the community had a vision and a goal to lend a helping hand. Fast forward to 2016, Leon and Naida Eisenbud have passed, and the only remaining founder Bobbie Hickman stated, "Who would have imagined three people, who just saw a need to help, could have accomplished so much?"
Walking on the beach in the spring of 1990, they noted some Ospreys' valiant efforts to build nests close by, and decided to help. A team effort that soon included the utility company and a local builder, resulted in a platform atop a pole that was quickly occupied by an Osprey pair that built a nest. The friends decided they could do more and the Friends of Barefoot Beach Preserve was born and has been a growing team ever since—joined by many who are also concerned with preservation of the coastal environment.
"We are so proud of the people that have committed their time and talent to the Friends," said the organization's vice president, Rebecca Edelbrock.
There are many different roles that comprise the Friends, from a docent, who commits weekly to three hours a day in season, to staff the learning center and answer questions; to the gardeners who, every Thursday, year round, weed and tidy up the cactus and butterfly gardens. The naturalist provides walks and talks (January through April). The Saturday lecture series committee contacts speakers, then makes sure everything is set up by 10 a.m. each Saturday (January through April).
"Volunteers also are behind the scene working with students from FGCU and Collier County to make our organization a great asset to the community," Edelbrock explained.
The organization is open to all. As Collier County continues to grow, so does foot traffic on the Barefoot Beach Preserve. The organization has a responsibility to continue education and to protect the natural features of the beach; to bring public awareness to the fact it is a preserve and a haven for animals that make it their home.
The Friends will once again sponsor the Great American Cleanup on Sept. 16, from 8 to 11 a.m. Those interested in helping can contact Keep Collier Beautiful at keepcollierbeautiful.com. Additionally, the organization backs the Everglades Foundation and its work to stop pollution in Lake Okeechobee.
Friends of Barefoot Beach Board of Directors
- President – Denny Dolmage
- Vice President – Rebecca Edelbrock
- Secretary – Barbara Schimbke
- Treasurer – Bobbe Hickman
- Cindy Dolmage – Docent Chair
- Sharon Truluck – Naturalist Chair
- Marilynn Greeley – Lecture Chair
- Margaret Winn – FGCU Volunteer Coordinator
Throughout the year, the Friends sponsor ongoing and special projects—made possible through membership dues and generous donations--as well as volunteers contributing many, many hours.
Saylor Nature Trail
A mile long trail winding through the trees to Wiggins Pass provides the chance to view over 30 species of native vegetation all tagged and identified by the Friends. Friends' members regularly groom the trail, clearing out exotic plants and replacing them with natural species. They've also erected directional signs, identified vegetation, provided benches to sit and enjoy the natural beauty of the trail and the Gulf.
Seasonal lecture series features guest speakers who are experts on subjects as varied as: shells, dolphins, eagles, tortoises and early Florida Indian culture. For years, these popular lectures have played to large crowds. Other educational offerings are naturalist guided walks and talks that include Beachcombing & Shelling talks, nature walks along the boardwalk, and exploration of the coastal habitats of the Preserve. All of these help to provide recreation and education on diversified subjects, primarily related to environmental topics for the benefit of thousands of local residents and visitors of all ages.
Located in the heart of the Preserve, this structure is full of displays and literature, including an extensive shell collection. Built and maintained through private contributions, this structure is staffed by volunteers from December through April and maintained by the Friends of Barefoot Beach.
Individual members have sponsored and/or developed posters and displays which are exhibited on wall-mounted cases and in free standing cabinets all year round. Unique shell collections are on permanent display. Plant specimens from the trail and marine species from the beach are displayed.
Maintained for the use of visitors who wish to identify specimens and/or explore books of interest for adults and children on the many and varied elements of this natural habitat.
We continue to actively monitor and protect the population, distribution, and habitat of the Gopher Tortoise—a threatened species which is protected from the encroachment on their habitat in the Preserve.
Poles and platforms for Ospreys have been constructed and installed in several places within the Preserve. In addition, Ospreys have established a nest on the trail in a dead tree. Ospreys have taken possession and reared families in all the nests. During nesting season, you can see and hear them as they call to one another, fish for food, and feed and raise their fledglings.
Dedicated to founders, Naida and Leon Eisenbud, with ponds and waterfall, a beautiful butterfly garden constructed, planted, and maintained with mostly native plant materials that attract butterflies of many species. Thanks to a few dedicated volunteers, the garden is flourishing.
Just to the South of the Learning Center, in vivid contrast to the Butterfly Garden, the friends also maintain a xeriscape (dry) cactus garden. Volunteers made identification signs for the plants within this garden.
Friends regularly assist the County with Beach Cleanup.
A recent bequest from Clarence Affelt, a longtime volunteer with the Friends of Barefoot Beach Preserve, has allowed us to recognize a dream the original founders had to support and further the education of students of environmental study.
The Friends of Barefoot Beach Preserve Scholarship is in the amount of $1,000 each for tuition, books, and educational related expenses. For more information, visit friendsofbarefootbeach.org.