Home Archives Gulfport's Kurt Zuelsdorf Named Audobon's “Conservationist of the Year”
Gulfport's Kurt Zuelsdorf Named Audobon's “Conservationist of the Year”

Congratulation Kurt!

Gulfport's Kurt Zuelsdorf Named Audobon's  “CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR”

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Kurt Zuelsdorf  grew up as a nature tour guide for over 20 years at Horicon Marsh Boat Tours in Wisconsin.  After living for 18 years in Gulfport, he dreamed of running a business that would provide kayak rentals and tours in the area.  His daughter led him to the perfect spot; Clam Bayou Nature Park, in his own back yard in Gulfport.

After visiting the Bayou, he realized it had a big problem – it was choked with years upon years of trash and debris.  But behind the trash, Kurt saw something that most people didn’t; a vision of a pristine ecosystem filled with birds and wildlife.

How could one person transform a trash dump? By inspiring others to share his vision.

In 2006 Kurt decided to offer a free Kayak rental to anyone who brought back a bag filled with trash from the Bayou. Calling his program “Bring Back the Bayou”, his creative plan created an ecosystem of its own – a “Green Machine” composed of thousands of moving parts, each part removing its bag of trash. Like a steady swarm of ants, his machine has removed over 100,000 pounds of human detritus from  Clam Bayou, including  shopping carts, lawn furniture, tires, bicycles, golf balls, and even motorcycles and sofas. One of the hardest things to remove was a 500-gallon automatic Dumpster.

And the Bayou is indeed coming back.  After years of preparation and delay, in 2010 SWFWMD will install a stormwater treatment system which should dramatically reduce the flow of trash into the Bayou, while offering land-based visitors improved wildlife viewing  opportunities.  But the Machine still has work to do.  “The volunteer effort is an important part of the overall strategy and management of Clam Bayou,” said Brandt Henningsen, SWFWMD’s chief environmental scientist. “Once the stormwater and restoration project is finished, maintenance will still be an important part of the overall plan because some new trash will still make it into the bayou.”

“That’s what’s going to keep the awareness up – the ability for people to see it. The more people that DO see it, the cleaner it can be” said Kurt.

Last year, Kurt was able to inspire 700 kids by either bringing them out to the Bayou or going to visit them. He’s constantly trying to encourage recycling including the use of reusable shopping bags.
His inspiration for the program is the birds that live and nest in the mangroves. “It’s all for the birds,” he said.

“After a major cleanup, I stood back and watched,” Kurt says. “The herons, the cranes, and the ibises were sitting up in the treetops waiting for us to leave. The pelicans were diving. The fish were jumping. It’s nothing short of a miracle to watch that happen.”

“What he’s done in Clam Bayou is exceptional. He’s brought a focus to that area, and he’s done it by bringing people together,” said Gulfport City Commissioner Michelle King.

Kurt’s mission is to “promote green living while educating people on the importance of preserving Earth’s resources”.

Gulfport's Kurt Zuelsdorf Named Audobon's  “CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR”

Kurt has already won several awards for his (and his volunteer’s) work, including:

  • 2007 Field and Stream “Hero of Conservation” award.
  • 2008 Tourism Award from Coastal Living Magazine.
  • 2008 Creative Loafing’s “Best Environmental Outing”  award.

In 2009, for his Perseverance, Creativity  and the huge improvement he’s made to both Clam Bayou and the lives of people who might otherwise never experience it, we name him St. Petersburg Audubon’s Conservationist of the Year.

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You can leave a comment for Kurt on his website, http://kayaknature.com/award-winning/

 

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