The St. Marks Refuge Association Inc., formed in 1987, is the non-profit (501.c.3) friends group that supports the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in all aspects of its mission. The Refuge occupies 70,000 acres along 45 miles of coastline, south of Tallahassee, Florida. The area has a rich cultural history going back about 15,000 years, and more recent historical sites are preserved through a series of signs on the Refuge, and accompanying brochures.
Over 250,000 people visit each year, from around the country and world, to bird watch, hike, bike, fish, paddle, see the Lighthouse, or just enjoy the peace and beauty of the Refuge's diverse habitats. The Refuge also provides environmental education programs to over 12,000 school children each year, and other outreach programs for families and adults, such as Tots on Trails, Families in Nature, Digital Nature Photography, and First Sunday at the Refuge. Annual festivals and special events also draw hundreds of visitors.
Association support is critical to operation of the Refuge's projects and Programs. Volunteers from the Association, the Photo Club and other friends, contribute over 10,000 hours each year, which has a value in excess of $200,000. Tasks range from greeting visitors, leading tours and teaching, to office operation and producing documents, to assisting with conservation projects and maintaining property and equipment. Volunteers range from local retirees and seasonal RVers, to local high school students and college students who come for a semester or just during Spring Break.
The Association also provides substantial financial support for Refuge projects and activities (see Examples below). Funds are generated from membership dues and donations, special events and solicitations, profits from our Nature Store located in the Visitor Center, and occasional grants. In 2012, the Association established an Endowment Fund to ensure long-term financial assistance to the Refuge.
The St. Marks Refuge Association Inc. is governed according to a set of Bylaws, and its relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, parent agency for national wildlife refuges, is established through a Cooperative Agreement. The Association is led by an all-volunteer Board of Directors that meets monthly, and has no paid staff (meet them below). Board meetings start at 5:45 pm on the 2nd Thursday of each month in the Environmental Education bulding, and are open to the public.
The St. Marks Refuge Association provides funds for many large and small activities, projects and miscellaneous costs throughout any given year, so an exhaustive list is not possible. But here are some large and small examples of contributions:
Some larger contributions
Summer salary for Education Ranger (about $7,000 per year)
Furnishings for new Environmental Education building (about $10,000)
Intern positions for biological projects involving at-risk species
Kiosks featuring historical and cultural resources on the refuge
Printing of newsletter and some brochures
Structural Assessment of the St Marks Lighthouse
Support bringing Whooping Cranes to St. Marks NWR and pay for Crane Cam
Peeper for Red Cockaded Woodpecker monitoring (wireless optical system)
Some smaller contributions
Burrow scope for Gopher Tortoise monitoring
Overlook and bench on the Levee Trail
Bench overlook at Mounds Pool
Transportation scholarships for classes attending refuge programs from schools having limited resources
Visitor Center courtyard sculpture
Sponsorship of annual festivals (Ex. Monarch Festival, WHO Festival)
Longleaf pine educational poster
Wildlife Drive Guide
BETSY KELLENBERGER, President — I was born in Virginia, raised in Maryland and West Virginia, lived in Alabama for 26 years but have called Tallahassee home for 23 years. Husband Lou and I have four grown children and seven grandchildren who live in Florida and Alabama. As a stay-at-home mother, I spent many hours volunteering as Girl Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, swim team driver and homeroom mom. While living in Dothan I served on boards of the Service League, Southeast Alabama Community Theatre and the Dothan Landmarks Foundation, a living history farm and science center. When we moved to Tallahassee I went back to school, first at TCC and then FSU where I earned a BA in English-Creative Writing. Upon graduating I took a part-time job at the State Library in the Bureau of Library Development and worked there for 12 years mostly dealing with library statistics and publishing the annual statewide library directory. Lou and I love the Refuge and spend many hours with our cameras prowling about looking for birds, wildflowers and changing light to photograph. As a volunteer I hope to join others in preserving our Refuge which is a natural gem in our area.
DEDE WELLS, Treasurer — Born in Indiana, I moved with my family to Cocoa, Florida in the mid-1950's, and I've lived in Florida since, except for a 6 year stint in California. I retired in 2004 after thirty years working with special education programs, first as a speech pathologist, then as a consultant with the Florida Department of Education, then as an administrator in local school district special education programs. My husband, Jerry, and I live at Shell Point, in the house we built in the 70's. We are a second marriage, and have 4 grown children and 5 grandchildren scattered around the country. We are both fond of the water and have fished and dived the local waters. We also enjoy kayak explorations around the Florida Panhandle.
GAYLA KITTENDORF, Secretary — I grew up in several places, but have lived most of my life in Florida, and have called Wakulla County home since 1975. My early introduction to the outdoors was in family camping trips, as well as Girl Scouts, and in visiting my grandparents in rural Oregon. A love for the outdoors is something my husband Craig and I have in common, even camping on our honeymoon! I have a degree in English Education from FSU, but my work experience has been secretarial, retail (during college), and nearly twenty years as a pediatric nurse (retired). I was secretary of Tallahassee Genealogical society for two years and volunteered at our daughters' school while they were there. I've been a volunteer at St. Marks NWR and a member of the St. Marks Refuge Association since 2007. I feel that we have a responsibility to preserve the Refuge and other lands like it, and that includes educating the public and promoting the Refuge to both visitors and those who have not been here yet.
LOU KELLENBERGER, Membership — Lou was born and brought up in the Charleston, West Virginia area but has lived in "the South" since 1962. He and wife Betsy lived in Dothan, Alabama for 26 years before moving to Tallahassee in 1988 after their four children had grown up. Lou was in the financial services business for many years, the last nineteen years at Morgan Stanley in Tallahassee. Lou enjoys being outdoors, mostly with camera in hand. His favorite subjects are the flora, fauna and landscapes of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. He loves watching the seasons change with all the amazing color provided by birds, wildflowers, insects, clouds and sunsets in this beautiful place. Lou hopes to be an asset to the Refuge Association and join the other volunteers in assisting the staff with ongoing projects to promote and preserve this special property that we are fortunate to have so close to Tallahassee.
TOM DARRAGH — I was born in Jenkins Kentucky, but spent my early years in Detroit Michigan. At age twelve my family moved to Mexico Beach, FL where I lived until 1979 when I moved to Newport FL to work with St. Joe Paper Company. I am currently employed with Leon County Fleet Management, as shop Supervisor. My wife Teresa and I have one daughter, Rebecca. I was actively involved in my daughter's school activities. This included holding the office of Band Booster Vice-President for two years and President for the following two years. Growing up I did a lot of hunting, which is where I gained my love for the outdoors. I have hung up my gun for a camera now, but still find great rewards in the hunt. I am currently President of the St. Marks NWR Photo Club. My goal is to get more families and youth involved in the outdoors. I want to help educate our youth in understanding and enjoying our refuge and instill a love for the great outdoors. I want us to leave our Refuge better than we found it; for we are truly blessed to have such a wonderful jewel in our own backyard.
DALE ALLEN — Although a native of Florida, Mr. Allen received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. He worked in the Washington, DC, area until 1979 when he moved to Tallahassee to take his Masters Degree from Florida State University.
Following a brief tour of duty as a Legislative Assistant on the Natural Resources Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Allen began his almost 30 year career with The Trust for Public Land in 1981 and retired in 2009. During this almost three decades of public benefit service with TPL (a national non-for-profit land conservation organization headquartered in San Francisco), Mr. Allen was involved with many significant conservation projects in the Big Bend region of North Florida. These projects include the federal acquisition of "Fiddlers Point" in Wakulla County (as an addition to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge), the State of Florida's acquisition of the DeSoto-Apalachee Historic Site in downtown Tallahassee, the State's addition of the "Lake Overstreet" property to Maclay State Gardens, and the creation of the Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway in Leon County.
Besides these more traditional public land transactions, Mr. Allen was also instrumental in the purchase by the Florida Department of Transportation of the abandoned Tallahassee-St. Marks railroad corridor from CSX corporation, and its development as Florida first ever "rail-trail" project. He subsequently advocated for the program that became the known as the Florida Greenways and Trails Program. Many hundreds of miles of abandoned railroad right-of-ways have been purchased through this program and used by hundreds of thousands of citizens and visitors annually.
Mr. Allen currently serves as the President of the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation and is on the Board of the Florida Trail Association and the St. Marks Refuge Association. He is also a self-taught naturalist and devoted organic gardener.
PAUL HAMILTON — I was born in New York City, but escaped as soon as I could. After a stint in the Air Force, including 2 years in Southeast Asia, I completed a BS at Cornell (72) and a PhD at FSU (76), and then worked for 31 years as a biology professor in Pensacola and Arkansas. I did my doctoral research in the St. Marks NWR, and came back many times over the years, often with students. I have been involved with several science education programs and have done lots of writing, and my wife Betty and I have considerable experience with grants, and some with fundraising. After retiring in 2007, Betty and I lived on the road while volunteering about 6 months per year for organizations in Alaska, Maine and Texas that do nature and environmental education work. We were resident RV volunteers at the St. Marks NWR on two occasions, and now live in a house we built near the Refuge. We are life members of The Nature Conservancy and of the St. Marks Refuge Association. I enjoy bicycling, hiking, kayaking and photography.
BETTY HAMILTON, Nature Store — I was born on a small farm in Vermont, but grew up in Cocoa, FL. Paul and I met and married there in 1970. I was a stay-at-home Mom while our son and daughter were young, but went back to school at age 42 and earned my BA and MA in Psychology. I worked in the Grants and Contracts Office at the University of Central Arkansas for about 8 years before we retired and went on the road in 2007. Eventually we found our way back to this area and we now live near the Refuge. I have been a Refuge volunteer since 2009, and I now manage the Nature Store and chair the Nature Store Committee. I enjoy plants (especially native plants), nature and dogs.
TOM BAIRD — Raised in Georgia, but a devoted Floridian since 1968, Mr. Baird holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Masters degree in Marine Science Education. He has been a fisheries biologist, a high school teacher, community college instructor (oceanography and microbiology), director of a science and environmental center, supervisor of science (K-12) in Pasco Co., FL, Director of Science (PreK-12) in Pinellas Co., FL, and Principal of a math/science/technology magnet high school in Pinellas Co., FL. He was Educational Policy Consultant for the Division of Public Schools, Florida Department of Education, where he coordinated the Department's Area Centers and College Readiness Initiative. He retired from the Fla. Dept. of Education in December 2002.
Mr. Baird has been published in the areas of marine science, energy education, equity initiatives, and science, technology and society issues, and has testified before a congressional committee on national funding for science education. He has contributed to numerous guides and two textbooks, including Silver Burdett Biology, and has served on numerous boards for science centers and public aquaria. He was previously a director of the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair (1990) and president of the Florida Association of Science Supervisors. Mr. Baird was Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator of the Florida/NSF Statewide Systemic Initiative from July 1993 to June 1996. He has frequently been a proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation.
He has been a consultant for several state and private universities, school districts, state agencies, and two software firms and served as Coordinator of K-20 Programs for the Florida Space Research Institute at Kennedy Space Center. His most recent consulting work outside of Florida has been for the State of Idaho (Standards-led reform) and the Discovery School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras through the Florida Volunteer Corp.
He likes nothing better than exploring Florida rivers in a kayak, and volunteers on archaeology digs for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and the National Park Service. He feels that St. Marks Refuge is truly a national treasure that must be protected and preserved for future generations.
JULIE HANNON —
MELISSA JACOBY —