Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flamingo Volunteers to the Rescue*

Just about the time the last private houseboat departed the backcountry of the Flamingo District, the Swamp Lily was being towed behind the van of John and Donna Buckley. The Buckley’s came with a mission to serve as “the eyes and the ears of the backcountry” – a mission that has lasted 28 years and continues to this day. In addition, they have a litany of successes in Search and Rescue, resource protection, visitor assists and education. “When we realized we had time to do something like this we wanted to repay the outdoors,” states John Buckley, “It’s a privilege.”

Buckleys doing routine backcountry camping checks

The Swamp Lily and her dedicated owners are a mobile base of operations in the backcountry, which encompasses mullet patrol, manatee watch, and sometimes a dormitory for rangers. Additionally, the Swamp Lily has hosted royalty, superintendents, researchers, and the press for many years. The vessel serves as a tremendous resource to the Flaming district.

Former state and national paddling champions, canoe livery operators, environmentalists and protectors of wildlife, John and Donna dedicate many months each year to the people and the resources of the Everglades. Working with outside groups and park staff the Buckley’s spread the word, clarify park regulations and are frequently first “on scene” for radio calls for assistance. They have experienced plane crashes, sinking watercraft, and injured or navigationally challenged visitors. Just last month, they can add whale rescue to their list of experiences in the park. (Associated Press article highlighting the Buckleys


Buckleys being interviewed during the Whale Incident

Now in their 70’s, they continue to repair signage, look for stray fishhooks, clear sections for paddlers along the Wilderness Waterway, guide biologists through mazes of mangroves, and canoe to contact visitors at backcountry chickees and land sites. They have recently added Isle Royale National Park to their resume and spend their summers at the historic Edison Fishery on Lake Superior hosting and interpreting to visitors.

The Buckleys were also interviewed by CNN Money about their volunteering life style and how retirees can save money. (

*This article includes contributions from Alexandra Alter and James H. Burnett III via Miami Herald, November 2006)

No comments:

Post a Comment