By LOIS KINDLE
Camp Bayou welcomes spring this month with some fun activities for kids from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 25. Admission is free, and registration isn’t required.
“Spring is a wonderful time to experience the Florida outdoors, and Camp Bayou is a great place to do it,” said Dolly Cummings, Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center director. “Part of our mission is to get kids out into nature, learn about the environment and come to appreciate Florida’s natural resources.”
On top of getting sunshine and fresh air in Camp Bayou’s natural setting, children and their parents can spend quality time together seeing the unveiling of Camp Bayou’s recently refurbished Storybook Trail in the Enchanted Forest; visit its restored Giant’s fishing cabins with new commemorative signage; make nature vine wreaths, pine cone feeders and other crafts; and get a free tomato plant to insert into dirt in a cardboard tube to take home.
For $5, kids can get a T-shirt or bandana to stencil on the Camp Bayou logo, or they can bring their own cotton item to use for free. The proceeds benefit the outdoor learning center.
Camp Bayou’s Nature Center, including its live animals, shell and bone exhibits and George Shambaugh’s famous bug collection, will be open for viewing, as will the popular Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum and its fossil pit, where kids can dig for buried treasures to take home. There’s a modest charge of $5 for stocking the pit, which supports the museum.
Visitors can view the center’s butterfly habitat with its bee research exhibit and participate in an interactive activity on prescribed burns.
The Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, Manatee Viewing Center and Florida Forestry Service will be on hand with exhibits, nature crafts or other activities.
Free cart touring of Camp Bayou will be available every 20 minutes for those who’d like to get an overview.
A magnolia tree will be planted in memory of Sandy Council in the Pavilion area, commemorating her longtime support of Camp Bayou as president of the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, which originally partnered with Hillsborough County to start Camp Bayou.
Later that day
Come explore the Little Manatee River after dark in a canoe or kayak.
Both will be available for $25 per boat (five single, one tandem kayak and four three-seat canoes are on site) or bring your own vessel and pay $5. Plan to arrive by 7 p.m. to be out on the water by 7:30. The paddle lasts about 90 minutes.
Registration is required by emailing email@example.com or calling 813-641-8545.
Camp Bayou also offers day paddle trips at 9 a.m. the first and third Saturdays of every month. RSVPs are required, and the cost is as stated previously.
About Camp Bayou
The Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center is a public-private partnership between Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery, Inc. and Hillsborough County Conservation & Environmental Lands Management. It’s located three miles south of State Road 674 at the end of 24th Street SE, Ruskin.
Through volunteers, donations, supporters and grants, Bayou Outdoor Learning & Discovery, the managing nonprofit, offers preregistered programs to schools, youth groups, adult groups and families.
The center is open to the public from Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for passive recreational pursuits, including wildlife watching, nature photography and trail walking. Admission is free.
For more information, go to http://www.campbayou.org or call 813-641-8545.