At its final board of directors meeting of the 2012 season Monday, BIPS presented a special "gift" to the Florida Park Service - a John Deere industrial strength tractor.
Chad Lach, park manager had a huge grin on his face as he drove the tractor right up to the door of the Amory Chapel where the board was holding its meeting Monday morning.
The tractor is to be used exclusively to support a number of park services at three of the state parks BIPS supports - Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro Land Base and Stump Pass Beach.
Front row, from left: Dave Ferrie, Mike Giobbe, Sharon McKenzie, Joan Ardrey, Jim Grant, Susie Stringer, Mary Lou Humprey. Back, from left: Mark Duncan, Chrys Hyde and Chad Lach.
"The park staff and I are just so excited to have this new tractor," Lach said. "To have a piece of equipment that is reliable, dependable and able to tackle the task at hand will make our jobs so much easier. We cannot say thank you enough to the CSO board of directors, BIPS contributors, volunteers and staff for making this happen."
The tractor idea emerged more than two years ago as a unique auction item for the BIPS annual Green Gala fund-raiser. The plan was to use the live auction to solicit donations for a John Deere.
During the last two years the auction raised nearly $14,000, which was set aside for tractor purchase. At its April meeting, the board decided "why wait?" until all the money is raised when a variety of immediate needs on the island could use the tractor now.
"We voted to finance the balance needed to purchase and put the tractor to use now, not a few years out," said Sharon McKenzie, BIPS executive director. "Our job is to help provide the tools that keep our parks pristine and they needed this tool now."
The island park staff has had a tractor for years, but it needs major repairs, has only two-wheel drive that limits it uses and lacks useful attachments.
The new tractor and accessories will be put to immediate use to help maintain park roads and parking facilities, move and store lighthouse museum exhibits, maintain fire lines at Don Pedro, clean and improve hiking trails, and maintain our beaches as required using four-wheel drive.
BIPS' fall funding plan will be to ask islanders and BIPS members to help pay off the loan with donations to "The Tractor Fund." Contributors donating $500 or more will be invited to an official "christening party" to sign their name on the new island tractor.
To begin helping BIPS pay off the loan, send a check payable to BIPS at: P.O. Box 637, Boca Grande FL 33921 and mark "Tractor Fund" on the memo line.