Ranger at Paynes Prairie Celebrates Retirement
By Adriana Di Graziano, UF Student
Rangers, old friends, new friends and family: everyone was there at Prairie Creek Lodge on Sunday, March 2, to celebrate Ranger Howard Adams’ retirement.
Adams, 65, worked as a ranger for Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park for nearly 35 years, having all kinds of responsibilities.
“It’s been quite an adventure,” said Adams while laughing. “Everything from prescribed burning, to rounding up the Scrub Cows, chasing after horses… all sorts of things.”
According to Adams, the prairie has grown in visibility over the years. New introductions like the camping site and the trails made Paynes Prairie more popular.
Adams started all the trails at the prairie. His favorite one is the La Chua trail, on which he has spent many hours.
“Been out there probably a thousand times,” Adams said.
One of Adams favorite activities on the trail, and in life, is bird watching. Particularly in the winter, it is possible to spot many migrant birds on the La Chua trail.
“It’s probably the best birding area in Alachua County,” Adams said. “Of course the Sandhill Crane, which is sort of the logo for the park, is probably my favorite.”
So what now? Adams thinks he is going to travel with his wife, Barbara.
“We’re thinking about going to Alaska,” Adams said. “As soon as we get our act together – which might take a while.”
People at the retirement party talked about Adams. Matt Bledsoe, Assistant Manager at the park, considers Adams as a mentor.
“He’s somebody I’d always go to because of his long-standing knowledge of the prairie,” Bledsoe said. “Being a newer person to the park here, I’d tend to go to Howard for any kind of questions.”
With Adams retiring, the prairie is now in the capable hands of new rangers such as Amber Roux, who talks about its future.
“We are currently working on a photo book of Paynes Prairie,” said Roux. “It's filled with wonderful photos by volunteer photographer Dominick Martino.”
The young ranger also talked about the ongoing prescribed fires, which play a fundamental role in keeping balance in the ecosystem.
“We are hoping for a great season ahead,” said Roux, with regards to the practice.
The prairie will also be hosting the Fire Fest, an educational event on prescribed fires. The festival will be taking place on March 29, and the rangers are hoping for a big turnout.
Roux said she is working with a great team of staff and she hopes the prairie will keep on improving.
“I hope that visitors continue to enjoy and appreciate the prairie,” said Roux. “I’m confident they will.”
Adams poses with his wife during his retirement party. The couple was
sharing dessert after the BBQ buffet. Photo by Adriana Di Graziano