Deep Creek Preserve Welcomes Local Visitors

children on boat

From a lazy ride with cool breezes on the Peace River to a cross-eyed possum to a warm hike through pine flatwoods, 120 people learned what Deep Creek Preserve has to offer at the “Get Outside!” event April 10.

The event gave nearby residents a chance to learn about the property and encouraged them to use it more. Nearly 90 percent of the people who attended were first-time visitors.

Governing Board Vice Chair Hugh Gramling brought family to Deep Creek, and he was impressed.

“The amount of resources and effort the staff put into the event was just fantastic,” said Gramling. “My wife, son and grandkids had an even better time than I did. They were totally thrilled the whole time.”

The “Get Outside!” events are designed to highlight the unique characteristics of each property, and Deep Creek was no exception. Since the creek at the preserve’s eastern border is a branch of the Peace River, tours of the river made sense. Capt. Dennis Kirk, owner of the Nav-A-Gator restaurant and tourist attraction, agreed to give boat tours of the river, showing 80 passengers wildlife and native plants that can be found on the preserve.

Preserve visitors had an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. The Lowry Park Zoo gave visitors a closer look at the types of animals that inhabit the preserve. The zoo’s Trinity Rodriguez showed visitors a pine snake, an opossum, a barn owl, a gopher tortoise and a marine toad. Kaylie Kushmer, a District youth education student intern, gave families time to rest between zoo presentations, boat rides and nature walks by reading watershed stories to the kids.

possumThe Lowry Park Zoo brought animals for display.

boy performing water quality testThe Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center helps a young visitor perform a water quality test.

The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center was one of the local organizations with an educational booth. Center volunteers gave visitors hands-on experience testing water quality. Around the Bend Nature Tours also set up a booth displaying tools fashioned from natural materials that can be found on District properties. Around the Bend guides gave tours through the hardwood hammock and pine flatwoods. The District’s Aquatic Plant Management, Land Management and Bartow Field Operations sections displayed some of their heavy equipment. Communications Department staff set up educational displays featuring a watershed model, Florida-friendly landscape plants and techniques, and more. Equestrian camping is popular at the Deep Creek property, so District staff brought their own horses for children to see.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to get the boys away from the horses,” said Gramling. “It was a long drive for us from Plant City, but it was worth every bit of the trip.”

Governing Board Member Bryan Beswick was appreciative of the hard work that went into the event.

“It was a wonderful experience for me and my family,” said Beswick, “and we really enjoyed it. The staff really put a lot of effort into the event.”

Governing Board former Chair Todd Pressman echoed Beswick’s praise at the April Governing Board meeting.

“The ‘Get Outside!’ campaign has been an outstanding effort, and planning these events was a big job,” said Pressman. “The staff organized some big events and made them very successful.”