Volunteer Spotlight, Cathy Thurow

Cathy Thurow paddles under a bridge in the Florida Keys.

Cathy Thurow

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

Within the first five minutes of chatting with Cathy Thurow, you will understand firsthand that her newfound passion for resource management is contagious.  

Growing up as a Girl Scout and the daughter of an avid outdoorsman, Cathy’s draw toward nature has been consistent throughout her life. She and her husband, Larry Thurow, are from Illinois and they have shared the love of nature with their two children. The pair have created a home away from home here in the Florida Keys over the past several years.

Cathy’s journey with state parks in the Florida Keys started with the toll booth at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but has now progressed to an obsession with volunteering in resource management for Islamorada Area State Parks.

“A lot of our volunteer friends see us in resource management and think we are crazy!” It doesn’t take long for her to start a conversation about bushwhacking through the dense hardwood hammock to get rid of those pesky invasives. She and her volunteer friends have wild stories of encounters with crocodiles, rattlesnakes and very lost visitors that spark a sense of adventure in the listener.

She is enthusiastic about being able to visit and help restore some of the uninhabited areas of the Keys because “you get to see so much wildlife.” According to Cathy, being a resource management volunteer is the only thing that gets you back into the Real Florida.

However, no matter how adventurous her volunteering journey gets, some of her favorite experiences are beach and ocean cleanups. One cleanup with 4Ocean at Pennekamp sticks out in her mind as one of the most rewarding experiences she has had with the Florida Park Service. Working alongside others to help cleanup the environment is a moving experience like no other.

When asked why parks are important, she is quick to respond.

“Just communing with nature and sharing that experience with others is important. I enjoy being able to share the resource with children. And when doing resource management, you get to see people in the parks and share what we know and listen to their stories. We get to learn together and have that discussion.”

Agreed, Cathy. Agreed.

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