Over the years, the effort of maintaining and improving the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc.(SCCi) owned Jennings Cave Preserve has been focused primarily on stopping the amount of dumping and local littering that has plagued the site for decades.
Roughly 10 years ago, the acting stewards made an attempt at educating local residents through the construction of a kiosk on the Jennings property. The kiosk listed contact names and numbers, as well as penalties for unauthorized entry and vandalism. At the time, the preserve was also posted as a protected site by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for a large bat colony. SCCi Preserve boundary markers were affixed along the perimeter of the property. Within six months, the kiosk was destroyed and pitched into the pit in pieces. The boundary markers were either taken or used as target practice until obliterated. The remnants of the wood structure and parts of a cherry laurel tree that died had fallen into the pit and found their way into the “ante-room”, which runs in the opposite direction of the cave. Having gotten a little ahead of the dumping and trash cycle, I thought it was time to tackle the wood and log jam pile up.
During our July meeting I informed our other members of my plan to extract the wood remnants from the cave. I immediately got some volunteers and we arranged our workday after the meeting. The following week, I drove to the site and was met by Phil, Ben (his son), Chris (an enthusiastic new member of the Florida Speleological Society (FSS)), and Johnathon (friend of Chris’s family). After inspecting the size and weight of the logs, we determined we could timber hitch and haul them straight up and out of the pit. Phil and Ben took the topside position while Chris hooked up the timber at the lower landing of the pit. I was on rope at the ledge halfway down the pit entrance. As Phil and Ben hauled upward I assisted and helped keep them out of the squeeze at the top lip. No loads were dropped. Chris cleared the landing before any hauling began and we all kept safety our primary goal. It all went about as smoothly as it could go. Even a good amount of rain during the extraction didn’t dampen our ability to work together as a team. Our efforts ended up with the removal of some sizable logs and wood remnants all hauled away from the site.
We’ve all been involved in other volunteer organizations but it always amazes me the response I’ve seen and the amount of work that is accomplished when a handful of cavers get together. Phil, Ben, Chris, Jonathon and all our fellow Florida cavers who have helped the SCCi and its stewards make Jennings one of Florida’s most popular caves in Florida, thank you.
Story by Mike Gordon