TAKE 5: Four-legged park ranger to lead ‘Tails and Trails’ walk

Feb. 28, 2014 @ 08:50 PM

This week, we Take 5 with staff members of San-Lee Park about the upcoming “Ranger Zoe’s Trails & Tails Walk” and other events. Ranger Steve Godfrey, administration and marketing assistant Lora W. Kelley and Lee County Parks & Recreation Director John Payne contributed to the responses.

“Ranger Zoe’s” Trails & Tails Walk is scheduled for March 22 at San-Lee Park. First off, who is Ranger Zoe?

Zoe is one of Ranger Steve’s assistant rangers at San-Lee Park — of the four-legged variety. The other assistant rangers are of the two-legged kind.

Ranger Zoe works and lives at San-Lee Park with Ranger Steve. Ranger Zoe performs a volunteer service for the people of Lee County. She has been by Ranger Steve’s side through many long nights on the dam, when his job required him to regulate water levels on the San-Lee Park dam and spillway system. Ranger Zoe has remained his faithful volunteer sidekick when he opened the water valves, checked water levels and monitored the dam during thunder storms, heavy rains, lightning storms and hurricanes.

Part of her daily routine includes accompanying Ranger Steve as he makes rounds after hours to check on campers at the park. She has become a familiar fixture to regular park patrons, and they frequently inquire about her whereabouts and welfare.

Ranger Zoe assists park staff in locating park visitors that may have lost track of time at closing time on the many trails located at San-Lee Park. She also assists Ranger Steve on his twice-daily trail maintenance walks, checking for fallen limbs and other debris. Over her many years of service, Ranger Zoe has earned the reputation of being a successful snake locater. She has accompanied Ranger Steve on numerous occasions in locating and removing unwanted snakes from local residences.

“And every year for the last 10 years the assistant rangers and I have a float in the Broadway Christmas Parade,” Godfrey said. “No matter how good our float entry is, all you hear is ‘Look there, it’s Ranger Zoe.’ Ranger Zoe has been my assistant for almost 15 years. Zoe came from Lee County Animal Shelter years ago. She is my best friend.”

The event is serving as a fundraiser for a planned dog park at O. T. Sloan Park. What activities are involved in the walk, and how can people register?

We are keeping it plain and simple. Just show up around 9 or 9:30 a.m. on March 22 at San-Lee Park. We hope to have drawings for door prizes and hope to have a rabies clinic also.

Yes, the goal is to raise the remainder of funds needed to build the new dog park, but we would like to also show people there is a place they can bring their dogs and go for a nice walk with their beloved pets.

So many people don’t have big yards or may live in apartments and would love to have places to take their pets to walk them.

“My dog, Ranger Zoe, and I walk the park trails every day before the park opens and after the park closes to make sure no trees or limbs are blocking trails and that all the trail bridges are in great shape,” Godfrey said. “With the addition of the new dog park at O.T. Sloan Park, that would give the public two places to take their pets for walks.”

The “Trails & Tails” Walk ... will start with registration between 9-10 a.m., and the walks begin at 10 a.m. Early registrations will be accepted during regular park hours prior to the date at San-Lee Park. We will have a raffle for door prizes donated by local businesses. The walks, as led by rangers Steve and Zoe, will take attendees around San-Lee’s trails. The trails at San-Lee Park, in addition to the local Greenway, are a fantastic alternative to neighborhood walks. The O.T. Sloan Dog Park will be Lee County’s first off-leash play area for dogs, providing an opportunity for safe socialization.

What’s the status of the dog park at O. T. Sloan? What has to happen before it comes to fruition?

We continue to accept donations and will be conducting more fund raising efforts in the future. We are consulting with a representative of the Disc Golf Club in their efforts to redesign the existing Disc Golf course. One element of site preparation required before we can begin installation of the Dog Park is that two existing Disc Golf holes will be relocated.

An on-site rabies clinic will be a part of the event. Why is this being included?

Asking local veterinarians to conduct a free rabies clinic was asking too much. Many vets have already donated to the new dog park, so we’re having a rabies clinic, but there will be a charge. To make up for that, there will be drawings for free door prizes that have been donated by several local businesses. Dr. Cindy Eaton, who has a Mobile Veterinary unit, will offer rabies shots at $10 each. We thank her so much for providing that service.

For people who aren’t aware of all the offerings at O.T. Sloan … what else is there to do at the park?

O.T. Sloan Park offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities.

The park features a Disc Golf course, tennis courts, ball fields, a playground area, a covered shelter with six picnic tables, an open picnic area with 10 picnic tables, grills at various locations, restroom facilities, open space and a pool.

The pool is open from May through September. During that time frame, we offer public swimming, Water Safety Instruction (swim lessons) and the opportunity to rent the pool for private parties. The abundance of parking available is attractive to larger groups/events.