RUSKIN – When was the last time your children spent some quality time outdoors? And do you remember when you yourself last communed with Mother Nature?
If it's been awhile, Saturday is your chance to rectify either omission when Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center hosts its annual Spring Open House from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..
“One of the reasons Camp Bayou exists is to help people make a reconnection with nature that's been increasingly lost in our fast-paced world,” said Dolly Cummings, learning center manager. “Our open houses are an opportunity to sample a bit of Florida outdoors in a way that's fun and safe for the whole family.”
There will be something for everyone, she said.
This year's free open house is designed to introduce visitors to all that Camp Bayou offers. It includes four hours of interactive nature-related activities, including a nature plant walk with master naturalist Becky Stafford at 9 a.m.; aquatic critter hunt from the shores of the Little Manatee River led by entomologist George Shambaugh at 10; a flint-napping demonstration at 10:30 in Camp Bayou's Native American village, where master naturalist Lori O'Neal will flake chert rock to create arrowheads and scraping tools; and species bingo, a game where visitors go out and see how many birds, butterflies, plants, spiders and snakes they can identify.
Fred Hendershot will man the Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum and offer fossil digs for kids for $5. Frog enthusiast Avalon Theisen of Conserve It Forward will return with her Save the Frogs program, which includes frog story time at 9:30 a.m., a frog talk/walk at 11 and a human frog chorus at 11:45.
And then there will be “wild” lunch at noon. The cost is $7 per meal or two for $10. The menu includes wild orange-marinated pulled pork; wild rice and beans; salad with wild herb dressing and wetland tea.
Activities will also include geocaching and a letterbox treasure hunt; nature-related crafts; and highlight cart tours of Camp Bayou. The historic fishing cabins, Eagle Audubon Butterfly Habitat and Nature Center will be open to visitors.
Canoes will also be available for $10 for up to three in a canoe around the Little Manatee River oxbow at the preserve.
“We want to build awareness that Camp Bayou is here for people to come and enjoy,” Cummings said. “Even after 15 years I still hear folks, even many who are local, say they never knew this place existed. We want to change that.”
Camp Bayou Nature Preserve has 160 acres of trails, riverfront and exhibits. Its outdoor learning center is a public-private partnership between Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation and Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery Inc. It is located three miles south of State Road 674 at the end of 24th Street Southeast in Ruskin.
For more information on Camp Bayou or volunteer opportunities, visit www.campbayou.org or call (813) 641-8545.