For many reasons, being the Communications and Partnerships Coordinator for my program within FWC did not work out the way I hoped. The change took me away from projects that mattered to me and assigned them to someone else, which greatly frustrated me.
I had an awesome job working to get projects funded that conserved and restored Florida’s freshwater wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams. Water is life, and I knew if I could create ways for aquatic habitats to be restored, I was providing life for our fish and wildlife.
One of my favorite projects was our Lake Gwyn wetland restoration. Lake Gwyn is part of the headwaters of the Peace River. At 100 miles long, the Peace River is the largest river in southwest Florida. This river is critical to the health of the Charlotte Harbor estuary and provides important habitat for countless species of fish and wildlife.
The Peace River watershed is also one of the fastest growing areas for development. While development isn’t inherently bad, it is up to resource managers to make sure our valuable natural resources are not damaged.
Lake Gwyn was once a lake but in an effort to control flooding for agriculture, the lake was drained by a large ditch that ran from north to south through the center of the lake.
In an effort from a variety of partners and funding sources, we were able to restore the wetland habitat in the lake without causing flooding issues for adjacent land owners. This is not only a win for all the fish and wildlife that call Lake Gwyn home, but for all the species down stream that benefit from the filtration effect wetlands have on polluted waters.
After we completed work on the west side of the ditch, funding was sought for the east side. I am pleased to report the east side is now a functional wetland as well! I lived for this kind of work and when I became a communication and partnerships coordinator, I wasn’t able to work on watershed projects any longer.
Maybe no longer working on aquatic habitat issues would have been OK if I found my new assignments fulfilling. Unfortunately that wasn’t what happened.
I found I did not have the freedom to do the job the way I thought it should be done. I could air a lot of dirty laundry here, but I don’t think that would help anyone. The bottom line is all communication is tightly controlled by the leadership of an agency like FWC. There are many reasons for this, after all it is a public agency. But a communications coordinator who cannot communicate effectively is not going to have a very fulfilling job!
So it was time to call it a career, and in 2019 I left FWC after 15 years to help my wife run Kemp Design Services. It was the best decision I have ever made (besides adopting our sons but that is another story!) and I should have done it years ago. I love the freedom to work for myself, and to be responsible for my own successes and failures. It is also a great blessing to work side by side with my wife who is an amazing graphic artist and business partner. We have seen our business grow and the freedom of self-employment has allowed me to spend more time with my sons and to explore the great outdoors!
There was only really one downside. I no longer get paid to ride on airboats, ATVs and swamp buggies. And I know longer get to assist in research projects on some cool species!
Truthfully there are two downsides. I was no longer connected to the conservation community. I was no longer working to promote the conservation and wise use of our natural resources. And I was no longer committed to making sure future generations have the same opportunities to fish, hunt, hike, camp and boat the way I did. I knew I needed to do something about that.
As I shared our family trips to national parks, camping trips and fishing adventures on Facebook, I couldn’t believe how many times someone would say something like how they wished they could do that with their kids but they didn’t know how. I knew right then what I could do. I could combine my knowledge of fish and wildlife conservation, my outdoors skills, and my marketing and social media management company to create a place where moms and dads could learn how to take their kids camping, fishing, hiking, learn about nature and develop a conservation ethic.
And just like that, Kemp Outside was born! On May 24th, 2020 I launched the YouTube channel, the Facebook page, and the Twitter and Instagram accounts for Kemp Outside. In the following months I have connected with so many amazing people and I am so encouraged to keep bringing outdoor content to you as often as I can and in as many ways as I can. Please connect with us on our social media, subscribe to the YouTube channel and check back here for great content to help you get outside! As always, thanks for reading!