By LOIS KINDLE
Just because spring break is over doesn’t mean the fun can’t continue. And with temperate weather during the month of March, it’s a great time for the kids, and the kid in you, to get outdoors.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will sponsor a nature-filled event called Spring Fling at the Little Manatee River State Park March 24.
“We’ve hosted this event for the past four years to expose the public to the park’s unique ecosystems and its native and wild flora and fauna,” said Ranger Kate Smithson, park services specialist. “We want people to explore the park, enjoy what it offers and leave with a desire to help us protect it.”
A family-friendly event, Spring Fling offers a variety of outdoor activities for both children and adults. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park, 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma.
The event is free with paid park admission: $4 per vehicle with one person; $5 per vehicle of two to eight people; and $2 per person for anyone entering on foot or by bus, bicycle or motorcycle. Food is by Dave’s Jukebox Diner, and native plants will be available for purchase.
There is a requested donation of $10 to cover the cost of the kits for those who choose to assemble a bat box. Otherwise all activities are free.
“Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Tampa Bay Bats and Florida Fish and Wildlife will be bringing live animals,” Smithson said. “Once again, we’ll have a wildlife obstacle course, and we’ve added a couple different stations this year.
“There will be arts and crafts, cornhole free play, owl pellet dissection, dip netting for river critters and three fishing clinics for kids ages 13 and younger. The first 15 to register per clinic will get a free fishing pole and tackle box to take home.”
The clinics will teach kids how to be responsible anglers, bait a hook, safely unhook a fish without harming it, tie a knot and catch and release a fish from the river, Smithson said.
Representatives from Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, Camp Bayou Paleo Preserve, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary, The Florida Aquarium and the Hillsborough County Extension Service will be on hand.
Visitors are welcome to take a guided nature walk with a member of the Florida Conservation Corps or park volunteer to learn about its habitats and residents,” Smithson said.
The park’s canoes and kayaks will be available for guided canoe tours, but its public launch will be closed for personal vessel launching.
“We had about 600 visitors last year, and we’re hoping for a similar turnout this year,” Smithson said. “People told us it was fun doing something new and different in the park that’s not part of what we offer every day.”
Spring Fling proceeds benefit the Little Manatee River State Park and the programs and events offered by its Friends organization.
For more information about the park, call 813-671-5005 or visit www.floridastateparks.org/park-events/Little-Manatee-River.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Spring Fling
WHERE: Little Manatee River State Park, 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma
WHEN: March 24, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
INCLUDES: Nature-filled activities, wildlife exhibits for children and adults; arts and crafts; food; music
COST: Free with paid park admission of $5 per vehicle for 2 to 8 people; $4 per vehicle for one person; and $2 per person (on foot, bicycle, motorcycle or bus)