Growing up in Pennington, New Jersey, Doug Ditmars spent hours exploring the woods near his home. He never outgrew his love of the outdoors, and it was the nature trail that caught his eye when he first visited the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. Now, nine years later, Doug has given more than 900 volunteer hours as a Nature Trail Guide and Gamefish Lagoon presenter.
“The nature trail is so unique to a person from the Northeast,” says Doug. “I’ve enjoyed learning about the mangroves, the plants and all of the wildlife along the trail, and I love being able to share it with visitors. Sometimes I teach them, and sometimes they teach me, and I can pass that learning along.”
Doug and his wife Jane retired to Stuart in 2008 from Easton, Pennsylvania, where Doug was an orthopedic surgeon, and Jane taught elementary school. While Doug gives his time to Florida Oceanographic, Jane volunteers teaching kindergarten and adult literacy. The couple makes frequent road trips to Rhode Island to visit their daughter, her husband and two grandsons, ages three and seven. They also like to spend time with their son in Pennsylvania.
Doug is a devoted birdwatcher and fisherman. He and his brother fish the local waters together on Doug’s boat, often preferring their fly rods to other types of fishing. Doug also likes fly tying. His time on the water translates into enthusiastic discussions with visitors about gamefish in the Coastal Center’s Gamefish Lagoon and getting people interested in fishing. Which is exactly the reasoning behind the Coastal Center’s annual Game Fish & Fish Games, an event coming up on March 19th to boost kids’ skills, knowledge and interest in fishing.
Seining with visiting school groups, and oyster shell bagging are Coastal Center activities Doug also enjoys, but his favorite volunteer role is Nature Trail Guide. “I’ve seen bobcats on the trail, and one day, this enormous yellow rat snake emerged as we were talking about the black mangroves near the third boardwalk,” says Doug. “It’s a very special place.”
Doug Ditmars Snapshot
Cupid’s tale: Married 49 years to his high school sweetheart
Latest read: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
Favorite fins: Trout, large-mouth bass, tarpon, snook
Hobbies: Tennis, birdwatching, fly tying, fishing
Best eats: Riverwalk Cafe & Oyster Bar, Shrimper’s, Duffy’s