Photo Blind Serves Photographers and Community

Photo of a completed photo blind, showing the ramp up to the blind, and the inside of the blind, summer 2021. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust
The completed photo blind, summer 2021. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Since 1997 the NANPA Foundation has been funding the construction of photo blinds on public land through grants. To date, 47 blinds have been built in 29 states. As photographers, we tend to think of blinds as safe, ethical, and responsible places to observe and photograph wildlife. The animals are not disturbed by humans in the blinds and are more likely to engage in their natural behaviors. All good for the nature photographer! But there’s a lot more to blinds than just photography.

In 2020, the NANPA Foundation awarded a grant to the Alachua Conservation Trust to build a blind at their Prairie Creek Preserve near Gainesville, Florida. Delayed by pandemic closures and restrictions, the blind was completed on May 31, 2021. We recently spoke with Heather Obara, Associate Director of the Alachua Conservation Trust, Inc. about the blind project.

About Alachua Conservation Trust

The Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) was incorporated in 1988 to protect the natural, scenic, historic, and recreational resources in and around North Central Florida and has helped preserve more than 54,000 acres of land in 16 counties. ACT actively manages and works to restore the lands at more than a dozen sites. The Trust also provides educational programming on conservation, resource management, and ecology to residents of nearby communities.

View from the blind showing an expanse of grassy wetlands under a clear, blue sky. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust
View from the new blind overlooking a wetland. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust

The site

The new photo blind is located in Prairie Creek Preserve, a 606-acre site that includes various habitats the represent many different aspects of Florida’s landscape and wildlife. According to Obara, “the blind is near one of the largest wetlands in the preserve and has views of an open water marsh with lots of wildlife and wading birds. There are also opportunities to see alligators, bobcats, deer, and more.” The wetland areas include cypress swamps, marshes, and streams, and the preserve is on an important flyway for migratory birds.

There are enough birds in the area that the ACT, in collaboration with the Alachua Audubon Society, has a bird-banding station at the preserve, a partnership that led to the Society providing a matching grant for the blind.

In addition, “a high school student approached ACT wanting to do volunteer work here as part of his senior project,” Obara said. “He was pretty handy and was interested in building things with his hands.” He did a lot of the construction work on the blind. It was a perfect match, and a great example of how foundations and nonprofit organizations like ACT leverage relationships, partnerships, and volunteers to dramatically increase the impact of grants and other limited resources.

Photo of the blind while under construction. The floor of the platform is in and a man is working on a ladder putting up the walls. "Under construction": ACT staff working on sides and roof of the blind. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust
Under construction: ACT staff working on sides and roof of the blind. Photo credit: Alachua Conservation Trust

NANPA Foundation sponsors Special Prize for national parks and wildlife refuges in Share the View International pNature Photography Contest NANPA’s Principles for Ethical Field Practices.

“I want to express our gratitude to the NANPA Foundation,” Obara said. “We couldn’t do the work we do without the support of donors. That money goes to a good cause—protecting some very special parts of Florida from the pressures of development, and allowing current and future generations to enjoy them.”

If you’re in North Central Florida photographing birds and other wildlife, drop by the newest photo blind funded by the NANPA Foundation. And take a look at the other parks, preserves, and conservation projects of the Alachua Conservation Trust.

 Frank Gallagher headshotFrank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photography services to nonprofit organizations. He manages NANPA’s blog.