Trip Number: 13446A
Staff: Suzanne Valencia
- Visit the first National Wildlife Refuge, now over a century old
- Assist with habitat restoration
- Enjoy evening ranger-led talks
- Swim, bird, or just relax on your day off
- All on-trip meals
- Camping fees
- Work equipment needed for projects
- Ranger-led talks
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
Habitat restoration is the name of the game at Pelican Island National Wildlife
Refuge. We are in a multi-year project of restoring the land to the way it was
before it was developed into orange groves. The old orange trees and acres of
exotic non-natives have been removed. We are now in the process of replanting
with the native vegetation. To this end, we have put in above-ground irrigation
systems and planted native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Some of the irrigation
pipes need repair and the plants need to be cleared of non-natives that try
to crowd them out. In the spring of 2011, we completed the construction of a
shade house in the hope that we could begin growing our own plants and not have
to depend on grants to purchase them. We installed an irrigation system, just
like a regular nursery. So on this trip, we may be able to begin the process
of planting seeds that will grow to re-populate the refuge.
The refuge is located within the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically
diverse estuary in the United States. Situated on Florida's central eastern
coast, the Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles and is connected to the Atlantic
Ocean by six inlets that run through a barrier island. The lagoon provides habitat
for more than 2,200 animal species and 2,100 plant species, including 700 species
of fish, 310 species of birds, and 36 endangered species. Due to its location
along the Atlantic flyway, the refuge has the most diverse bird population in
North America. Pelican Island also provides habitat for over one-third of the
nation's manatee population and contains large parcels of Florida's east coast
mangrove forests and salt marshes.
Adjacent to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is the most productive
loggerhead sea turtle nesting location in the Western Hemisphere, the Archie
Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1989 to protect sea turtle nesting
habitat, this coastal refuge hosts nesting habitat for three species of sea
turtles. Between the two refuges is the most visited park in the state of Florida,
Sebastian Inlet State Park, which offers three miles of beach, incredible ocean
and inlet fishing opportunities, camping, and one of the best locations on the
Atlantic coast to surf.
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge has grown from the original five-acre
island to now include over 5,000 acres, much of it under water. On the barrier
island portion of the refuge, we are in the process of restoring former citrus
groves to wetland and hammock habitats for the benefit of wildlife. Sierra Club’s
focus for the first seven years had been removing the invasive, exotic Brazilian
pepper plant from a proposed boardwalk that will connect two loop trails. Restoration
work is ongoing also on the east side of the bisecting Jungle Trail road. In
the past few years we have laid irrigation systems in preparation for planting
of native species, and we even got to plant hundreds of shrubs and trees. We
have also re-treated the persistent non-native grasses and cleaned around previously
planted trees. The staff is anticipating doing a prescribed burn in the near
future to decrease the build-up of fuels. To prepare for this, we will be asked
to remove the above-ground irrigation systems that are no longer needed. We
will do some work in the shade house -- starting seeds and/or repotting small
As the refuge itself has no campground, we will set up base camp at Sebastian
Inlet State Park, off US A1A. The park is noted for great fishing and surfing
near the North Jetty and, of course, its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
A few miles down the road is the McLarty Museum, which sits at the spot where
survivors of an ill-fated Spanish plate fleet struggled to shore in 1715 after
a hurricane sunk nine of their ten treasure-laden ships.
Photo: Kristen Kneifl
Day 1: We will gather at Sebastian Inlet State Park at 4:00
p.m. for introductions, orientation, and a discussion of our week’s activities.
The first trip meal will be dinner.
Days 2-3: At 7:00 a.m., we will pack our lunches, eat breakfast,
and be ready shortly before 8:00 a.m. to drive the three miles to our work site.
Lunch will be eaten wherever we happen to be at noon. At the end of each work
day, participants not assigned to that day's cook crew are at leisure to explore
or relax. Dinners will be at 5:30 or 6 p.m. depending on the evening program.
Day 4: Everyone will have one day off at midweek. Recreational
activity options include kayaking/canoeing to view the Pelican Island rookery,
fishing in the Indian River Lagoon or at Sebastian Inlet State Park, touring
by commercial boat on the Indian River Lagoon, bird watching and hiking in the
refuge and surrounding conservation lands, exploring treasure museums along
the Treasure Coast, surfing, or just relaxing. In addition, the leader will
arrange a number of ranger programs for evening enlightenment and education.
Days 5-6: We'll continue the work that we started on days
2 and 3.
Day 7: Our trip ends after breakfast. Anyone who is free to
stay and help break down the commissary will be very welcome.
To get to the east coast of Florida, you can fly into Orlando or into Melbourne
(Delta and US Air only). Or if you plan to drive, head for I-95, which runs
down the east coast. Detailed directions will be provided to registered participants.
You are responsible for getting to the campground. Your mode and cost of transportation
to the park are not included in the price of this service trip. As soon as a
complete list of participants is available, the leader will forward copies to
all participants to facilitate their transportation planning.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
We will camp at Sebastian Inlet State Park as there are no camping facilities
on the refuge. Once we are settled in, there will be no need to move for the
entire week. The park is located just three miles north of the refuge where
we will be working. Campsites are located near bathrooms with flush toilets,
showers, and coin laundry. Florida State Parks have twice been voted the best
state parks in the nation. Each of our campsites also has water and electricity.
Our meals are planned by the trip staff and everyone will have the opportunity
to assist with the cooking. Meat options are always available for breakfasts
and lunches, however dinners are vegetarian (think cheese ravioli, Moroccan
stew, etc.). Special diets need to be discussed with the leader.
The work itself is only moderately strenuous, and participants are encouraged
to take many water and shade breaks. No one is expected to work beyond his or
her capacity. The Florida sun can burn in a hurry, even in the winter, so sun
protection is a must. The climate in Sebastian, Florida, in March should be
neither very cold nor very hot.
If you have not seen your health care professional in the past five years,
plan a visit and obtain his or her signature on the medical information form.
Minor medical conditions known to the participant are no impediment to having
a full, enjoyable experience. Do not forget that all participants are encouraged
to have a current tetanus shot.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own camping equipment, including a tent, a sleeping
bag, and a mattress or pad (if desired). You will also need to bring your own
towel. Each participant should also have a day pack and a personal first-aid
kit that contains bandages, moleskin, etc. Hiking boots are not needed, but
bring comfortable work shoes. Swimsuit and fishing pole are optional. Cooking
equipment will be supplied, but you will need your own mess kit with utensils
and a cup. Bring a hard plastic container to carry your lunch. The trip leader
will provide a more complete packing list to registered participants.
- Shofner, Jerrell H., History of Brevard County, Volumes I and II.
- Smith, Patrick, The Land Remembered.
Photo: Kristen Kneifl
In the 109 years since its establishment as America's first national wildlife
refuge, Pelican Island has become an icon of our grand refuge system. From its
tiny beginning as a 5.5-acre island, Pelican Island has grown to include over
5,300 acres of additional wetland habitat and uplands.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many partners are busily restoring habitats
on both the eroding island and the newly acquired upland buffer. The restoration
efforts are focused on preserving mangrove nesting and roosting habitat on Pelican
Island, and creating additional wetland and hammock habitats from citrus groves
on the upland buffer. The refuge has also constructed public facilities on the
upland buffer, allowing visitors to view the Pelican Island rookery from public
lands, rather than by boat. Our speakers will discuss the many issues facing
the Indian River Lagoon, and as a group we will discuss the actions that we
can take to help protect this and other bodies of water.
Your volunteer leaders have a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club mission
-- "to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth." We
hope to impart to you some of our love for this area and for the work of the
Sierra Club. We believe that the Sierra Club's outings program provides an excellent
opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and
to learn about current concerns. While on this trip, we expect you to share
the local conservation issues from your area. Above all, we will have discussions
on what each and every one of us can do to lessen our impact on the earth. Be
prepared! The leader has a checklist of things that she does, which other participants
have added to.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Suzanne Valencia has been leading local group outings since 1992 and went on her first national Sierra Club trip in 1997. Her love of the out of doors led her to becoming a national leader herself. She has led over fifty trips since 2001, from Florida to Colorado, New Mexico, California, Maryland, and Utah. Most of these were service trips. She loves sharing the wilderness experience with others and especially working to help in the National Parks and Refuges.
Roger Straw has been leading service trips for the Southeast Subcommittee for 15 years. The trips have included trail maintenance in the Caribbean National Forest, Puerto Rico and vegetation removal in St. John National Park, US Virgin Islands. A current trip involves working with the Pine Mountain Trail Conference on a section of a new long-distance trail that will serve as an alternative to the Appalachian Trail. His interests also include hiking and canoeing.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips