After the September 12th Saturday cleanup operation at Ocala Caverns, there was a second large turnout of Florida cavers on Saturday the 19th to install a gate on the cave entrance. Some drilling and pounding was even done by a Marion County Commissioner, Mike Amsden, a true friend to conservationists. Tim F and Danny B masterminded the gate design. Tim’s welding skills were augmented by those of Carl F, a professional welder and an instructor of welding. Tim and Carl had brought two or more welding rigs and maybe three generators, and a fourth generator showed up with Jerry J. The rest of us pretty much did what Tim, Danny and Carl asked us to do, which was mostly totin’, fetchin’ and grindin’.
It took only a day to build the gate. It is made of 3x3 inch used angle steel, graciously donated by Blankenship-Pasteur, Inc., of Ocala. The working bars are horizontal and have 5.75-inch spaces between the bars to allow the free movement of flying bats. Previously, there was a large population of bats in the cave, but they had been driven out by vandals some time ago. The lowest bar of the gate was set several inches above the brick steps in order for surface water to be able to freely wash leaf litter and invertebrates into the cave. This is very important in overall energy flow within a cave, since literally all the energy and organic material that enters caves comes from above ground, the loss of which results in relatively low biodiversity. The raised bottom bar also allows small mammals, like rodents and this short-tailed shrew, Blarina brevicauda, to use the cave if they want to:
This time an Ocala Banner photographer and reporter attended. Gary Green, the reporter, interviewed pretty much everyone present. Here’s a happy reporter in his first wild cave:
The plan was to construct the gate sans opening, then cut the opening; that way there would be no problems in making certain that the angled bars lined up properly for the locking mechanism (Sean R’s idea). So that’s what Danny and Tim did, and yes, they are looking out:
As you can see, the opening that was cut is not large, being only one bar maybe 30 inches wide (that’s Tim, Danny and me):
Annette B sanded more graffiti from the concrete bunker that covers the cave entrance, Jon S and others put up warning signs on the perimeter fence, Bill C was a laborer like me plus he coaxed Carl into helping us, and several of us including Mike G performed rockwork and additional cleanup. We have a few more tasks to go to complete the property security plan including more work on the back fence and some additional rockwork, which will be discussed at the October club meeting.