Take a Walk on the Wild Side!
By Alana Edwards
If you haven’t taken a walk on the wild side recently, then you should take a trip to Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and take a walk on their new wetland boardwalk.
This past week, students from the FAU Honors College spent their spring break digging holes and hammering nails to create the 90 foot long structure. Before last week, Rhayfon Pancho(left), Carmen Blubaugh, Katie Glattorn and Colin Hutton had never undertaken such a project. Monday morning they met with members of the Florida Trail Association (FTA) crew to glean some knowledge of how to accomplish the task. The FTA has been working within the Kissimmee River Valley for the past 2 months building boardwalks along wet areas of the Florida National Scenic Trail. So far the FTA has built over 1000 feet of boardwalk!
On Tuesday morning, FAU students along with several members of the FTA arrived at Arnold’s, and by the end of the first day, Sue Arnold knew that her boardwalk dream would soon be a reality.
“I have to admit that I was worried they wouldn’t be able to complete the boardwalk in just two days, but these kids did such a fantastic job. It’s really beautiful.”
Arnold says the boardwalk will allow visitors to view wildlife, such as the great blue heron, great egrets, white ibis and crested caracaras, up-close. The boardwalk and wetland area will be an integral part of the Arnold’s summer camp program.
The new boardwalk is just one of the many additions at the Arnold’s in the last year and a half. Other recent additions include the wildlife hospital, butterfly garden, and mile-long nature trail. The center is quickly becoming one of the most well-known rehabilitation centers in the state.
The FAU Honors students participated in this project as part of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies’ (CES) “Alternative Spring Break” Program. Students participating in the program earn community service hours in lieu of the typical spring break choices.
Katie Glattorn, a FAU Honors student majoring in psychology, wasn’t sure what to expect during her week-long experience.
“My initial expectation was that working on the boardwalk would not be difficult and it was the project I was looking forward to the least,” Katie said honestly. “In the end, it was the hardest project, but what I enjoyed the most about my spring break experience.”
Rhayfon Pancho, whose focus at FAU is environmental studies, was equally impressed by the project. “I feel so proud knowing that we worked as a team to build something that thousands of people will get to enjoy.”
Many of the materials for the project were donated by Home Depot in Vero Beach, Scotty’s and W & W Lumber in Okeechobee, and CES.
“Between all of the community sponsors and support from FAU, I really feel like our center is coming together,” Arnold said. “My first tour on the boardwalk, we saw several species of birds and marsh rabbits feeding in the grasses.”
As they say, if you built it, they will come!
The Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is located at 14895 N.W. 30th Terrace in Okeechobee. For more information, call 763-4630 or go to: www.arnoldswildlife.org. Alana Edwards works as Education and Training Coordinator for Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies at the Riverwoods Field Lab in Lorida, Florida and coordinates the Alternative Spring Break program. For more information about this program, call 863/462-5280, x3192.