AVON PARK AIR FORCE RANGE BLUEBIRD TRAIL
Started 1970 by Donald Ford
The Bombing Range is located at the very end of State Road 64. So
30 miles below Tampa, FL you should find SR 64 coming out of Bradenton, FL, follow that to the middle of the state and it
actually dead ends at the gate. The gate is to the Avon Park Correctional Facility, and also Youthful Offender Facility. The
Bluebird Trail starts on the other side of the military airfield. The day I visited the airfield was on lockdown because of
one of the terrorist alerts. We were given a military escort through the airbase and across the airfield to the monument.
The 100 Box Trail was built from metal piping of the old watering
system used in the orange groves, which used to be there. The boxes are all purchased boxes from Jack Finch, of the Finch
Bluebird Boxes. The predator guards are very large circular heavy metal welded pieces which were made by the prisoners. At
first the prison system said they would make 30 but Donald Ford made a promise that he would get 600 Bluebirds for them in
a year if they would make 100 guards. It was agreed and the correction system donated the guards. I believe only once have
they reached that total but do make it to over 500 Bluebirds per year.
Willie and Kacky faithfully monitor the boxes weekly. It was only
until 2002 that they had to make it a two day task. Kacky drives a park truck and takes the notes, and Willie jumps in and
out of the truck. Willie uses sign language for what he sees which makes for faster monitoring.
There is one more individual who does help monitor at times. Both
Willie and Kacky after 12 years of monitoring, are ready to retire. But they do not really have anyone to carry on the monitoring.
In their area they do give talks on Bluebirds and raise money for replacement boxes, but they have never involved the young
or youth to get involved with Bluebirds.