Potts Preserve Event Boasts Best Turnout to Date

visitors at Potts PreserveLeft to right: A young visitor enjoys his new binoculars. Sally Unser, senior communications coordinator, applies a tattoo at the youth education booth. Inverness Mayor Ron Plaisted, left, presents the “Inverness Get Outside! Day” proclamation to Alan Grubman, Withlacoochee River Basin Board member. A snake fascinates one of the youths who visited Potts Preserve.

Nearly 550 people visited Potts Preserve on Oct. 23 for the District’s fourth “Get Outside!” event, the largest turnout yet.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” said Dave Moore, District executive director. “Staff worked hard to get the word out, and it paid off.”

Local residents were lined up waiting for the gates to open, filling the parking lot and quickly snapping up free boat ride and nature hike tickets. Once the first wave of visitors had arrived, Inverness Mayor Ron Plaisted kicked the day off by officially proclaiming it “Inverness Get Outside! Day.”

Some of the activities were designed to show visitors more of the property than they could see from the main event area. Capt. Mike’s Lazy River Cruises provided a pontoon boat tour of the Withlacoochee River, while staff told riders about the recent restoration project on the property. Around the Bend Nature Tours took visitors on nature hikes on one of the preserve’s trails. The Florida Trails Association local chapter had information on how to volunteer to help maintain trails at Potts Preserve and other public lands.

The conservation message was pervasive. Land management’s campground and equestrian display demonstrated how visitors can enjoy the preserve. Heavy equipment operators explained how prescribed burns help the land. The Brooksville Regulation Department brought a well inspection camera and talked about the new monitoring wells at the preserve. Busch Gardens showed off a variety of animals native to Potts Preserve’s habitat. They also brought along a boa constrictor and marine toad to convey to the public the threats posed by exotic species. District staff at the fossils & water quality testing booth talked about surface water, the aquifer, and how they are connected.

Many activities were designed to appeal to young people. Youth education staff had a steady stream of young visitors getting temporary tattoos and learning about other opportunities to visit District lands. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ booth hosted a “Throwing the Bull” game to provide fertilizer education. Visitors competed against each other by tossing bean bags representing fertilizer at a target while avoiding areas marked as “water” and “sidewalk.”

Community organizations were plentiful. Citrus County Airboat Alliance displayed an airboat, the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network set up a popular archery range, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission brought a display trailer of stuffed native animals. Citrus County Extension office talked about 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other organizations that take advantage of District lands.

“The ‘Get Outside!’ events have done an outstanding job showcasing some of the District’s properties,” said Moore. “We’re seeing results as more people realize that these properties are available and inexpensive to visit.”

Potts Preserve visitors