Volunteer Spotlight, 2021 Volunteer Awards at Highlands Hammock

Volunteer Awards

Russell Sharp and Arin Morton  

Volunteer Team of Two of the Year Award for Administration 

Russell Sharp has served on the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park board for five years. He has served as the vice president for four years and has chaired the Hammock Inn Camp Store for three years. Russell has contributed more than 3,258 volunteer hours in his five years on the board.

Arin Morton has served 15 years on the board of directors of the citizen support organization (CSO) and has held the office of treasurer for nine years. She has been a member of the Hammock Inn Camp Store Committee since the CSO received the concession contract in 2017. Arin has contributed more than 2,300 volunteer hours.

Russell is a friendly, skillful communicator who always rises to the occasion to do what is required for the benefit of the park and the CSO. As an accountant and manager, Arin is scrupulous with handling treasurer’s reports, tax returns and the CSO’s legislative report.

The Hammock Inn has been open for five years and is a tremendous success with total sales close to $950,000. The CSO recently received an endowment of $600,000, which will enable the board to plan goals with the park manager and continue the trajectory of success.     

Congratulations to Russell Sharp and Arin Morton on this award. Their efforts are appreciated.

Russell Sharp and Erin Morton

Russell Sharp and Erin Morton

Ridge Rangers  

Volunteer Team of Three+ of the Year Award for Natural Resource Management 

The Ridge Rangers, sponsored by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, is an organization of volunteers involved with habitat restoration on the Lake Wales Ridge and other Central Florida conservation areas. Their activities benefit the Florida scrub-jay and other rare and endangered plant and wildlife species.

Park managers worked closely with Ridge Ranger coordinator Bill Parken from 2013 to 2018 implementing projects focused on reducing sand pine density at Highlands Hammock State Park and Lake June-in-Winter Scrub Preserve State Park.

The Ridge Rangers, most of whom are retired, understand the value of preserves and the importance of volunteer work. They used chainsaws, brush cutters and loppers to reduce sand pine density in three management zones totaling 125 acres and transform the acreage to optimal oak scrub suitable for Florida scrub-jays.

Park managers worked with coordinator Tessie Offner to address areas heavily infested with coral ardisia. The Ridge Rangers worked two days per month from November 2020 to May 2021, and the park’s exotic team treated 6.5 acres of coral ardisia.

Two Ridge Rangers, Marilyn Blair and Rose Plemons, worked from September 2019 to June 2021 to remove Caesar weed and coral ardisia from park nature trails. In January 2020, 10 Ridge Rangers contributed 40 hours to clear vegetation from a waterway with historic weir dams impacted by Hurricane Irma.   

Congratulations to the Ridge Rangers on this award. Your dedication to the natural resources at Highlands Hammock and Lake June-in-Winter Scrub Preserve state parks is appreciated.

Ridge Rangers

2021 Florida State Parks Volunteer Recognition Winner

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