Manitou Cave welcomes new board members, discusses future of cave

Pictured from left, Ramaraju Rudraraju, Sandy Elbersole, Sati Nath,Julie Caminiti, Annette Reynolds, Sharon Freeman, Larry Chesser, John Dersham, Larry Beane, Alan Cressler, Ian Conerly, Blake Wilhelm, Diana Goss, Derek Jackson and Victoria Martin. 

Last weekend, Manitou Cave of Alabama held its fourth annual board meeting and appreciation day at their visitor center.

Attendees welcomed new board members and guests while reviewing milestones of the previous year.

Manitou Cave of Alabama Director and Steward Annette Reynolds said the 2019 year included some major accomplishments, such as the rehabilitation of the historic visitor center, new improvements to the property and publication of several research projects.

She said there was also the launching of a new website and the welcoming of many visitors who “share their appreciation for Manitou’s mission of peace and preservation.”

“Manitou Cave of Alabama is bringing some exciting opportunities to the community for the upcoming year,” said Reynolds.

She said some of their planned activities for 2020 include additional steps to protect the property’s natural setting and wildlife, along with welcoming new visitors and researchers and fundraising events to help continue protecting and preserving the “unique treasure.”

“We especially want the community to know that their support of the mission is deeply appreciated,” Reynolds said.

Saturday’s gathering saw the attendance of various naturalists, scholars, researchers, photographers, educators, authors, writers and community leaders, including Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser, who stopped by for a visit.

The following is a list of new board members present:

• Larry Beane, retired park ranger, Interpreter of Little River Canyon National Preserve

• Julie L. Caminiti, 200 Alabama bicentennial master teacher, elementary instructional technology specialist

• Ian Conerly, senior pastor of New Oregon Methodist Church, Club Scout leader

• Sandy Ebersole, director of geological investigations, Geological Survey of Alabama

• Sharon Ashcraft Freeman, retired archaeologist, Alabama chapter Trail of Tears Association

• Victoria Renne Martin, junior anthropology major student intern from Lee University

• Benjamin V. Miller, hydrogeologist, Tennessee water science center researcher, caver

• Sati Nath, president of Greater Birmingham Bengali Association, Inc

• Blake Wilhelm, adjunct instructor of Northeast Alabama Community College, learning resource center archivist and specialist

• Marie Rush, wildlife conservation medicine, editor, educator and researcher

Current board members include: Annette Reynolds (director), Diana Goss (treasurer), Beau Duke Carroll, Alan Cressler, John Dersham, Clark Miller, Ramaraju Rudraraju, Derek Jackson and Caleb Walsen.

Manitou Cave of Alabama is a mission centered 501c3 not-for-profit organization established in 2016. Our focus is “To respect and protect this historic site through conservation and education, so that the cave, land, and water, are preserved for visitors and wildlife, as a place of peace.” Therefore, the site is not open all the time to the public, but only for group tours by appointment.

Donations are accepted on the website at

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