Adult Volunteer of the Year Award for Visitor Service
Edmund (Ed) Wirkus is one of our unsung volunteer heroes at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. He has lived in Santa Rosa Beach for the last 20 years. For the last eight years, Ed has faithfully and quietly walked three miles of beach each way every Saturday and Sunday, picking up trash on the beach. Each weekend, it takes him 3.5 hours round-trip to pick up trash. To date, he has contributed approximately 1,200 hours of solely walking the beach and picking up trash.
Ed never asks for anything from the park. He wears his volunteer shirt every weekend while picking up trash. You will see him with a backpack, where he keeps his trash bags, and usually both hands with bags full of trash. When park rangers conduct daily sea turtle surveys during nesting season, Ed will give them the full trash bags for disposal. The rest of the year, he disposes of the trash himself.
Ed says he rarely takes a weekend off and says picking up the trash helps ensure the beach is healthy and beautiful. He also says it is therapeutic for him. Ed always starts right before daylight and is usually done before campers come down to the beach.
Walking and picking up trash may seem like a small act, but it has a large impact. With three miles of beach, it is extremely helpful to have a dedicated volunteer patrol for trash each weekend. This ensures that wildlife such as sea turtles and shorebirds have pristine nesting habitat. It also ensures that park visitors can enjoy the beach as it should be, clean and safe.
2020 Florida State Parks Volunteer Recognition Award Winner