True Friends, Indeed

For more than 30 years, The Friends of Blackwater have contributed mightily to the advancement of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Photography courtesy Friends of Blackwater

History:
Founded in 1987, the Friends of Blackwater (FOB) is an all-volunteer organization with over 500 members who contribute complimentary labor at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR), as well as fundraising and advocacy support. During its 33-plus years, the Friends of Blackwater have fully funded or matched dollars for more than 50 projects to support and enhance the Refuge’s infrastructure, educational and outreach initiatives.

How it Helps:
Through grants and donations, the Friends of Blackwater helped renovate the Refuge’s Visitor Center, which included an observatory and natural-history library on a new second floor of the building. Here, a set of TV monitors show live activities captured by the Osprey Cam and Eagle Cam, while housing bird exhibits and a birdwatcher’s observatory, where visitors can use spotting scopes to view the Osprey Cam platform, the Blackwater River and the marsh.

FOB also manages the Eagle’s Nest Book and Gift Shop, staffs annual events, such as the Eagle Festival and Youth Fishing Fun Day, cares for the Native Butterfly and Beneficial Insect Garden and helps maintain its land trails and paddling trails, among many other duties. BNWR’s Environmental Education building was funded in part by a grant acquired by the Friends of Blackwater, and since 2007, it has offered a venue for numerous workshops and programs for elementary and middle school students from Dorchester County. The Friends of Blackwater also recently installed kiosks and enhanced signage along the paddling trails. The kiosks contain interpretative panels with updated maps and safety information, making the river access points more visible and increasing public use of the water trails.

Among many other initiatives, the Friends of Blackwater annually awards up to three scholarships of $3,000 each to Maryland high school students who plan to pursue careers in fish-and-wildlife management, environmental education and science and related fields at the collegiate level.

A waterfowl cam captures the activities of the refuge’s inhabitants and guests.

How to Help:
Friends of Blackwater has a large and active volunteer program and is always looking for new members to help on its various committees. Volunteers at the Refuge receive personalized training and enjoy special events, such as an annual crab feast, awards for hours/years served and special trips to thank them for their service. To learn more, visit FriendsOfBlackwater.org.