Assateague Benefit Far Exceeds Goal

ASSATEAGUE — A fundraising effort conducted by a local organization that advocates on behalf of the wild horses on Assateague Island far exceeded its goal, allowing the group to redouble their efforts.

In May, the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the friends group of the Assateague Island National Seashore, which advocates on behalf of the wild horses on the barrier island, launched an online fundraiser with the goal of raising $3,100 to hire two new wild horse management interns. The internships are part of the ongoing effort by the partnering organizations to educate the countless visitors to Assateague of the detrimental impacts their behavior can cause to the wild horses on the barrier island. The goal was to raise $3,100 during the fundraiser, but the effort raised over $7,000, or more than double what was hoped for.

“Our goal was to raise $3,100 and we are humbled beyond words at the overwhelming support from our donors and their strong belief in the importance of this program,” said AIA Board President Nancy Gaither.

In what has become a summer of unprecedented visitation to the Assateague parks, with more and more humans sharing space with the wild horses, it has become increasingly vital to educate the public on the importance of proper distancing and proper food storage to keep both the visitors and the wildlife safe.

The interns supported by the AIA interact with the public every day and engage visitors along the roadways on the island, in the day-use area and the campgrounds. With the excess funds raised during the campaign, the AIA has been able to provide the interns with highly-visible safety vests and purchase parts and make repairs to two golf carts they utilize in their daily mission to educate the public.

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AIA is reminding all who visit Assateague this summer to adhere to the laws in place to protect to wild horses and to heed the warnings on the many signs posted at the entrance to the barrier island. All food should be stored properly to ensure the safety of the horses and the public. Visitors are reminded to maintain a distance of at least 40 feet from the horses and are reminded it is illegal to approach them, touch them of feed them, despite the temptation to do so.

“The Assateague horses are highly-social animals living wild and free and are perfectly adapted to life on the barrier island,” said AIA Outreach Coordinator Ashlie Kozlowski. “It is the responsibility of all visitors to follow the guidance, enjoy these animals from a distance, properly store their food and help us ‘Keep ‘em Wild.’”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.