Florida Outdoor Writers Association writers Enjoy Citrus County Hospitality
Florida outdoor media professionals descended on the Nature Coast during the 76th Annual Florida Outdoor Writers Association conference sponsored by Discover Crystal River and The Plantation on Crystal River.
Media Professionals Conference at Plantation on Crystal River
Held September 7 -10, 2022, the annual gathering of writers, photographers, TV and radio presenters and other media professionals takes place in a different tourist destination each year, providing organization attendees with a taste of their ‘host’ location. Activities from fishing trips to cycling, skeet shooting and kayak adventures are examples of some of the experiences that destinations share with the communicators.
Each Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) conference focuses on conservation, safety, outdoor participation and environmental issues, the founding principles of this 76-year-old Florida non-profit organization.
Beach swag bags courtesy Discover Crystal River awaited attendees upon their arrival at the Plantation on the Crystal River Resort, with area maps, flyers and logo-centric goodies.
Offering unforgettable adventures, from swimming with manatees, golf, in-shore fishing, kayaking and more, the iconic Plantation on Crystal River resort provided the perfect venue for the conference.
Citrus County Commissioner Holly Davis and State Representative Ralph Massullo along with Discover Crystal River Sales & Marketing Manager, Terry Natwick, welcomed the newcomers to the area during the opening banquet event, held in the Palm Room on the the main building of the historic resort.
A buffet-style dinner by the resort’s culinary team provided the perfect opportunity for networking and old friends to reconnect.
Save Crystal River Initiative Headlines Workshop Day
The Crystal River ecosystem restoration topped discussions during the Professional Development Day. Conferencegoers attended a full day of workshops on the resort site.
Marly Fuller, Strategic Communications Director from The Florida Wildlife Corridor, discussed the need for green spaces in Florida for not only animals, but humans as well. The Florida Wildlife Corridor stretches across the Sunshine State with 17.7 million acres of green spaces, including over 7 million acres of working farms and timberlands. Keeping the working green spaces as part of the corridor is a vital issue being faced today.
Nick Haddad, Sustainable Fisheries Communications Manager from Florida Sea Grant informed participants of proper catch and release practices and the Return ‘Em Right program for deep sea fishing. The January 13, 2022 Descend Act requires anglers by law to use descending devices to release their catch. The Return ‘Em Right program provides outreach, education and free descending devices for anglers.
Save Crystal River and Sea & Shoreline Restoration addressed the Crystal River Clean-Up Initiative. One of the most positive ecosystem success stories in Florida, volunteers, biologists, divers and even local fifth graders have become involved in the on-going projects to help clean up the local water ways.
The water in the cleaned canals has gone from 4-8 feet of visibility to 15-30 feet, changing from an algae-dominated to a plant-dominated environment. So far, 305 million pounds of a harmful algae called Lyngbya have been removed, over 810 new spring vents are now open and flowing. Sixty-five acres of canals have been cleaned and 350,000 cultivated “Rockstar” and “Salty Dog” native seagrasses were planted. Like every ecosystem, the Crystal River project will require continued maintenance and upkeep.
The day came to a close with the TJ Stallings Corporate/Tourism Showcase and Social where networking was encouraged among the tourism board, corporate representatives and media professionals.
Rainy Day on the Nature Coast
Friday morning area activities took a slow start, due to inclement weather, but true to their outdoorsy natures, the conference attendees donned wet gear and headed out to hike, fish with the Plantation Adventure Center guides, and explore between the showers.
The new Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center provided a dry cover from the storms and an insight into the plight of the manatees in the region.
Time-Honored Angling Skills Contest
During the SKISH contest, contestants used their casting skills to throw their line into hoops set at various distances on the lawn at The Plantation resort. SKISH is derived from the words ‘skeet shooting’ and ‘fishing’, both skills involved in the competition, which dates back to 1953. The contest winner is honored by having their name engraved on a silver platter.
This year’s SKISH winners were: 1st Place – Eric Johnson; 2nd Place – Captain Tom Van Horn; and 3rd Place – Captain Scott Cornelius.
It’s a Wrap and Awards Night
After a full day of outdoor activities in and around Citrus County and board meetings, conference attendees met for their final evening banquet and the Excellence in Craft Awards dinner. Visit Sebring provided goodie bags and table Caladium displays- a reminder of next July’s Caladium Festival in Sebring.
After a plated dinner by The Plantation culinary team, 2nd Vice President and Nuts & Bolts angling television show presenter, Captain Cefus McRae, presented the media awards in twelve categories, including magazine short and long feature articles, conservation, TV/video/webcast, books, and photography.
NatureCoaster writers received six Excellence in Craft awards, including two 1st place stories: in the Conservation category (Leaving a Natural Legacy in the Family Tradition: Heartwood Preserve by Diane Bedard), and in the Family Participation in the Outdoors category (Hidden Creeks, Secret Springs: A Baird’s Adventure on the Chassahowitzka River by Sally White)
The full list of FOWA Excellence-in-Craft winners and their contributions can be found at https://www.fowa.org/excellence-in-craft-awards/