Trash haul at Biscayne National Park

NPLD Event Spotlight: Volunteer Clean Up to Help with Hurricane Irma Relief

Elizabeth Strom, Volunteer Coordinator for Biscayne National Park, was planning to host a small event of about 20 people for National Public Lands Day 2017. But after Hurricane Irma hit, she received numerous requests from people in the community who wanted to lend a hand. Now Strom is expecting more than 100 volunteers to pitch in on September 30.

In partnership with Coastal Cleanup Corp., volunteers at Biscayne will repair and clean up damage to the park caused by the storm. With more than 173,000 acres stretching from south of Miami to north of Key Largo, Florida, the volunteer cleanup will take place across four sites: Convoy Point, Black Point, Boca Chita, and Elliott Key. Although Biscayne is 97% water, cleanup will take place on both land and water.

“Our main goal is to receive visitors again,” says Strom. Boca Chita Key recently reopened, but all other park facilities including the visitor center, other islands and campgrounds remain closed. “Having 100 people helping out the park is definitely going to get us ready to reopen a lot quicker.”

Strom says the overwhelming requests to help out are not surprising.

“We have such a wonderful place in the hearts of our community, and we have such a wonderful community that everybody helps each other out,” she says. “Friends have gone to friends’ houses to help and clean, so it makes perfect sense to me that people want to come to this park because it’s so special and it’s in the hearts of a lot of people.”

This is not the only cleanup to draw more than 100 volunteers to the park. Biscayne’s robust volunteer program draws volunteers on a daily basis. “Volunteers do so much here and are truly the glue that holds the park together,” says Strom.

A volunteer with an NPLD certificate at Biscayne National Park

Strom attributes the predicted turn out to the local communities’ commitment to the park.

“Once you care about something, then you take of it and you fall in love with the place. When you’re physically helping to put the pieces back together you take ownership in it,” she says. She hopes to bring in new friends and to get Biscayne up and running soon.

You can learn more about how the National Park Service is responding to damage caused by the recent hurricanes here.

To participate in the NPLD clean up at Biscayne National Park on Sept 30, volunteers MUST register with Elizabeth Strom at elizabeth_strom@nps.gov. No walk-ins. Because the park is currently closed to visitors, an exact count is required.

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