By LOIS KINDLE
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is sponsoring an event at Little Manatee River State Park that’s designed for the nature lover in you.
“Spring Fling is about celebrating and exploring the Florida outdoors,” said park services specialist Kate Smithson. “It’s a family-friendly event for children and adults, and we’ll have lots of activities to keep both engaged.”
Spring Fling will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 8 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 folks traveling by foot, bus, bicycle or motorcycle.
“There will be wildlife exhibits with live animals from Boyd Hill Nature Preserve and possibly some area wildlife rehabilitators,” Smithson said. “We’ll have a wildlife obstacle course where kids can imagine themselves burrowing like a gopher tortoise, building a nest like a bird or leaping like a deer; bat box building and placement tips; arts and crafts and other nature-related activities using recycled materials; dip netting in the Little Manatee River; dissecting owl pellets to learn about what owls eat; a fishing clinic for kids ages 15 and younger to learn how to bait a hook, safely unhook a fish without harming it, tie a knot and catch and release a fish from the river; an opportunity to plant native pollinator plant seeds and take the pot home; learn to be a nature detective; and more.”
Kids who sign up at the park entrance for one of the three fishing programs (limit of 10 in each) will get a free fishing pole.
Smithson added representatives from a wide array of state and local organizations and agencies will be on hand, including Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Manatee County Parks, Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary and The Florida Aquarium.
The WaterVentures Learning Lab, a 53-foot-long traveling science center, will also be on site to engage visitors with all kinds of free, water- and conservation-related exhibits and activities on Florida’s rivers and waterways.
“You can also take a guided nature walk around the park with a Florida Conservation Corps member or park volunteer,” Smithson said. “They will explain how to see wildlife and where to look for it.”
Although the park’s public launch will be closed during the event, its canoes and kayaks will be available for use at no charge.
Food by Dave’s Jukebox Diner and native plants will be available for purchase.
The Spring Fling will take place in the park’s main picnic area. For additional information, visit http://bit.ly/21E3EOP or check out the park’s event page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/272376663179016/.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Spring Fling
WHEN: April 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHERE: Little Manatee River State Park, 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma
FEATURES: Nature-related activities and wildlife exhibits for children and adults; arts and crafts; food; and 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)