Cleaning up around your park after any storm can be time-consuming and back-breaking kind of work but all of our public land areas really appreciate the help of their volunteers. Cleaning up after Hurricane Irma is and will continue to be a tough ordeal for any of the volunteer workampers (and park personnel) who can make their way back to whichever park, forest or preserve they were assigned to at the beginning of the month. Most of all of the volunteers were probably asked to vacate the parks prior to the storm happening and we hope that all of them come back as soon as they can. Of course, if the winter volunteers want to come a little early that would probably be nice as well. We can say that one of our favorite Florida state parks we volunteered at is still experiencing some problems and may not be able to accommodate any volunteers yet. Dade Historical Battlefield State Park had quite a few downed trees and a few of them fell on the park hosts sites. Luckily, some of the Missouri State Park Rangers have come down to help cut up all the trees and they may be up and running pretty soon. You should call ahead to make sure you can come back. This is especially true of any of the park down below Ocala and points south.
We here in North Florida got fairly lucky in that Irma was down to a Tropical Storm by the time she got this for North. We have some downed trees along the trails but mostly we have a lot of flooding from all the rivers overflowing back into the run-off ditches, ponds, and lakes in the area. So for the last week, we have been closed, picking up branches and debris while we wait for the water to recede back into the lake. Once the water dries off the roadway and our great maintenance crew gets finished picking up the debris we couldn’t lift and mow the main area of the park, we should be able to open the picnic/playground area. The boat ramp area and all the trails will probably take, at least, another week to be cleared of water, trees, etc.
Since we are in a county park we didn’t have to evacuate but we did prepare to in case it was needed. Instead, we were able to bunk down in one of the offices here at the park for the night and morning of the storm. Our old trusty RV came through without a scratch. It didn’t move an inch I don’t think. We did get some water damage from one of the windows that had a window AC unit that we didn’t seal properly. We ended up having to take apart the couch and set it outside to dry off in the sun. We didn’t have electricity for 4 days but we had city water and propane in the tank. A tree came down on the electric and internet lines in the neighborhood next to the park office entrance that feeds into the park. Florida Power and Light worked very hard to get all 14,000 of their customers in Columbia County up and running as quickly as they could. They have lots more customers further south that they are still working on getting electricity but we appreciate them just the same.
Now we are waiting on Comcast to come through. It’s a good thing we have maintained our Verizon Internet while we have been here. The little MiFi device has been a real trooper over the last couple of days. We had some data gigabytes rolled over from previous months and it will probably be all gone by the time we get the park’s internet back up. The poor secretary has had to go into town and use the computers in the Emergency Management Office to get her work done and her people paid.
Well, I’ve got to get back to work on other things. We posted a few pictures of the park below. It has been nice not to have any visitors but I’m beginning to miss them. Part of being a park host is being able to meet new people, greet frequent visitors and ride around the entire park enjoying the wildlife and scenery. I am looking forward to getting back to normal.
Please thank all the out-of-state Park Rangers, Wildlife People and others who have come to help Florida get back on its feet. We really appreciate your help. Be careful out there folks!