It may not have been a big crowd, but the folks who attended Camp Bayou’s recent Spring Open House had a blast.
“We really had a good time,” said Daniel Allen, of Riverview, a volunteer who brought along his 11-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn. “I like her to experience the real world, the natural world you find at Camp Bayou.
“All the new technologies in our life are great; there is always something new,” he said. “However, places like Camp Bayou remain constant and teach us about ourselves and where we came from. If kids don’t experience and learn to appreciate the wonders of nature, we could easily lose places like this.”
Dolly Cummings, manager of Camp Bayou’s Outdoor Learning Center, agrees.
“I’m constantly surprised when people tell me, including many who live in the area, that they didn’t know this place is here,” she said. “Camp Bayou is a hidden treasure, and we’d certainly like more people to come out and enjoy it.”
The open house, which is designed to introduce visitors to all that Camp Bayou offers, treated about 60 kids and parents to a morning of nature-related, family-friendly activities. Participants learned about ant lions, tomato plants, frogs and rain barrels. Free seedlings were given away by the University of Florida’s IFAS Gulf Coast Research Center in Balm.
Some listened to educators from Lowry Park Zoo, who brought a barred owl, young alligator and cane toad to delight both young and old. Others went on guided walking tours, netted river critters, dug for fossils or canoed on the Little Manatee River.
“If you enjoy nature, Camp Bayou has a little of everything,” Allen said.
Organizers weren’t discouraged with the turnout.
“We didn’t have a huge crowd but those who came stayed the entire time and seemed very engaged,” Cummings said.
The spring event normally is held around Earth Day and the Great American Cleanup in April, but was moved this year so it wouldn’t compete with the events surrounding them. Unfortunately, the annual FunFest was going on in Sun City Center, which meant grandparents who came with their grandkids in previous years were otherwise occupied, Cummings said.
Camp Bayou Nature Preserve has 160 acres of trails, riverfront and exhibits. Its outdoor learning center is a public-private partnership between the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation and Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery Inc.
The next event at Camp Bayou is set for April 27, Save the Frogs Day. For information, visit http://goo.gl/NsE0u.
For more information on Camp Bayou or volunteer opportunities, visit www.campbayou.org or call (813) 641-8545.