The most popular happening on St. Vincent Island will be held this month.

The most popular happening on St. Vincent Island will be held this month.  The annual Open House on St. Vincent Island will take place 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. ET on Friday, March 28.  This is your chance to experience the beauty of St. Vincent Island and learn more about what goes on at this wildlife refuge and other nearby natural areas.  Free transportation to and from the island will be provided by the refuge barge. The barge will pick up visitors at the USFWS barge dock which is located a short distance northeast of the Indian Pass boat ramp.  This year there will be a limit of 250 visitors on the island for this event.

  There will be guided walks and tours, educational presentations, and guided wagon tours.  Visitors can sign up for the wagon tour and other guided events when they reach the island (visitors may only sign up for themselves) or they can explore the island on their own.  Some of the guided activities include birding walks, beach walks, photography safaris, and hiking tours.  In the outdoor amphitheater – created by placing folding chairs under one of the island’s huge live oaks - there will be educational presentations about the history of St. Vincent Island and “The Plants Around Us”.

The Supporters of St. Vincent Island will be providing hot dogs and drinks at a booth right beside live musical entertainment provided by Neil Jones.  There will be informational booths set up by the St. Marks Refuge, Panama City Fish and Wildlife, Riverkeepers, Florida Park Service, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol and the St. Vincent Supporters.  Susan Richarson will be our visiting on-site artist.  Come prepared to enjoy the day on St. Vincent Island – wear your walking shoes and a smile. Volunteers will be at the Indian Pass boat ramp to guide you to the barge that will take you to the island. Here is the schedule of events for the Open House:

                        9 a.m.       Music during the day                        Neil Jones                                 

                        9:30 a.m.   Wagon Tour                                    John Inzetta & Denise Williams

                                          Coastal Photo Walk                       Paul Phelps

                        9:45 a.m.  Hiking Tour                          Jeff Strickland

                                         Beach Walk                                    Brad Smith

                        10:15 a.m. Birds of St. Vincent Walk    Barry Kinzie

                        11 a.m.  Wagon Tour                           Pete Burgher & Shelley Stiaes

                                    History Talk                             Carol Brown (amphitheater)

                                    Photographic Safari                  Paul Phelps

                                    Beach Walk                             Trish Petrie

                        11:45 a.m.  Hiking Tour                                    Jeff Strickland

                        12 p.m.  Birds of St. Vincent Walk        ANEER – Matthew Anderson

                                      Beach Walk                           Brad Smith

                        12:15 p.m. Wagon Tour                             John Inzetta & Carol Brown

                        1 p.m.    The Plants Around Us            Denise Williams  (amphitheater)

                                      Beach Walk                           Gloria Austin

                        1:15 p.m.   Hiking Tour                         Jeff Strickland

                                         Birds of St. Vincent Walk    Barry Kinzie

                        1:30 p.m.  Wagon Tour                                    Dave Francisco & Landy Luther



            Turtle nesting season will be here soon and you can help support the turtle program on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) by participating in our “Adopt-a-Nest” program.  For a small fee of $25 you will be able to name the turtle whose nest you adopt and you will receive the following:
            * adoption certificate

            * photo of adopted nest

            * activity/hatchling report

            * recognition in Supporters' newsletter

            Proceeds from nest adoptions help offset refuge costs for the turtle monitoring program.  These costs include fuel for the survey vehicles and materials to construct cages to protect nests from predators.  Turtle adoptions make a wonderful gift for people of any age who care about turtles and wildlife preservation.  With so many turtles choosing to nest on St. Vincent Island last year we are hoping for another active year.  That means we will certainly need an increase in turtle adoptions.  To adopt a nest or learn more about the program, email us at or leave a message at 850 229-6735 and thank you for your support!

            There are only two more monthly island tours before the summer heat and bugs arrive and the tours are discontinued until the fall.  All tours are on the second Wednesday of each month – April 9 and May 14.   Our enhanced website will give you details about the tours plus a convenient place to sign up.  Just click on “Island Tour Sign Up”.  The tour is free, but participants must make a reservation on the web at . 

Seats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a small charge for boat transportation to and from the island.   You can also visit the island on your own.   Do remember that the island is primitive – bring everything you need, including drinking water – and leave only your footprints behind.

            This monthly column is provided by the Supporters of St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Please visit our web page for more information and volunteer opportunities – - and never miss an opportunity to visit St. Vincent Island.