From left: Frederick J. Buckman, Pasco County Parks and Recreation director; Jay B. Starkey, Jr.; Allen Altman, Pasco County School Board chair; Todd Pressman, District Governing Board member; and Lou Kavouras, deputy executive director for District Outreach, Planning, Board Services & Ombudsman, mark the opening of the Starkey Environmental Education Center exhibits with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Representatives from the Pasco County School Board, Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department and the District, as well as Pasco County community members, recently celebrated the completion of exhibits in the Starkey Environmental Education Center, located at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey.
The new exhibits will enhance watershed education for Pasco County students and visitors to the Starkey Environmental Education Center. The educational displays include information about watersheds, water conservation, wetlands and uplands, and two interactive games teach visitors about the park’s wildlife. Historical exhibits highlight the Tocobaga Indians, the McNeill homestead, turpentine activities that occurred in the park, and Jay B. Starkey, Sr. The exhibits will enhance students’ understanding of key science topics during field trips occurring throughout the school year as well as summer camps.
The program included a welcome from Lou Kavouras, District deputy executive director for Outreach, Planning, Board Services & Ombudsman, followed by presentations by Todd Pressman, former Governing Board chair; Jay B. Starkey, Jr.; Allen Altman, chair of the Pasco County School Board; and Frederick J. Buckman, director of Pasco County Parks and Recreation. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of the new exhibits.
“Thanks to the partnership with the school board, the county and the District, students have a chance to get outside and explore the native habitat along the center’s boardwalk and discover the importance of wetlands to people and wildlife,” said Mary Margaret Hull, District lead youth education coordinator. “The high quality of environmental education occurring at the center continues to remain sustainable due to the strong commitment of each partner.”
The Starkey Environmental Education Center is a key location of the Watershed Ambassadors Middle School Program. Through this field trip program, all Pasco County seventh-grade students are taught the importance of protecting and conserving water through hands-on science activities. The trips are led by a Pasco School District science teacher who not only teaches the students but also provides teacher training to all 15 Pasco County middle schools.
The Starkey Wilderness Preserve is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in Pasco County and protects sensitive environmental areas in the fast-growing western portion of Pasco County. The preserve consists of three tracts: the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, the Serenova Tract and the Anclote River Ranch Tract. The park is named after Jay B. Starkey, Sr., who purchased the land in 1937 and then developed a cattle ranch and timber operation. In 1975 Starkey donated several hundred acres to the District, initiating the concept of permanently protecting the land and its resources for future generations.