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Wrap Up the Year with St. Lucie County’s Weekly Educational Hikes

Post Date:01/02/2016

North Fork KayakGive yourself the gift of nature this holiday season as St. Lucie County's Environmental Resources Department continues its weekly educational nature series. There are 11 different hikes to choose from before the end of the year.

These free programs give participants an opportunity to explore some of the 42 miles of hiking trails that are located throughout the county's nearly 11,000 acres of Environmentally Significant Lands.

The December Nature Series includes:

  • Saturday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to noon – Mysteries of the Manatees Paddle at Richard E. Becker Preserve, 3398 Selvitz Road, Fort Pierce. Cool weather and lots of wildlife are the order of the day as water temperatures are cooling to spur the Florida Manatee’s migration inland towards warmer waters.  Don’t miss this kayaking adventure to get a glimpse of Florida’s gentle giants and learn more about their plight. Kayaks will be provided. However, paddlers are welcomed to bring their own canoe/kayak.
  • Sunday, Dec. 6 from 9 to 11 a.m. – Geocache Treasure Hunt at St. Lucie Village Heritage Park, 305 Torpey Road, Fort Pierce. Do your children dream of treasure hunting? Are you a big kid at heart?Join us and learn about present day treasure hunting using GPS units – geocaching! It's a great outside activity for the whole family with an opportunity to combine technology with nature. Appropriate for all ages.
  • Saturday, Dec. 12: Session 1 from 8 to 10 a.m.; Session 2 from 10 a.m. to noon – Christmas Bird Count at George LeStrange Preserve, 4911 Ralls Road, Fort Pierce. Have you ever wondered what it is birders do during the “Christmas Bird Count,” hosted by the National Audubon Society? Join a Florida Master Naturalist and members of the St. Lucie County Chapter of the National Audubon Society to learn basic birding and counting techniques. There will be opportunities to hike and count as well as looking for birds from a stationary vantage point, a wonderful option for those who love being in nature, watching birds, but need an “easy does it” approach to the outdoors. We’ll be recording all our sightings and submitting our citizen science results to the National Audubon Society for inclusion in the annual count – this is public participation event.
  • Saturday, Dec. 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – Denizens of the Dark Owl Prowl at Spruce Bluff Preserve, 611 SE Dar Lane, Port St. Lucie. Ever wonder Whoooo’s out there?Join us for a nocturnal adventure on the banks of the St. Lucie River in search of resident owl species, our neighbors of the night. We will be on the lookout for several silent flyers that rule the night world.
  • Sunday, Dec. 13 from 9 to 11 a.m. – Gopher Tortoise Gazing at Ancient Oaks Preserve, 4650 Oleander Road, Fort Pierce. While many residents and visitors know Florida is blessed with marine turtle species, did you know the Treasure Coast is home to a fascinating land tortoise as well? Ancient Oaks is home to a stable population of this incredibly well-adapted species, so join us as we explore this preserve and look for resident tortoises.
  • Sunday, Dec. 20 from 8 to 10 a.m. – Habitats and Ecotones at the Steven J. Fousek Natural Area, 8551 Carlton Road, Port St. Lucie. Celebrates Florida’s biodiversity by hiking a beautiful location and learning about how different habitats support different forms of animal and plant life. Encounter ecotones and discover the habitats located on this preserve such as Hardwood Hammock, Depression Marsh and Basin Swamp.
  • Monday, Dec. 21 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. – Family Birding Basics at Richard E. Becker Preserve, 3398 Selvitz Road, Fort Pierce. Birding is pursuit enjoyed all over the world, and the Treasure Coast is a hot destination for birders of all ages and knowledge levels! Join us and explore one of the county’s newest preserves by learning the basics about birding from an experienced naturalist.
  • Thursday, Dec. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. – Oh, Florida Christmas Tree at Sheraton Scrub, 2222 North 41st St., Fort Pierce. Welcome to Florida – but where are the Christmas trees? Unlike habitats further north, there are not very many “traditional” Christmas trees around here. Come see and learn about what Florida's inhabitants from earlier times used – the sand pine. This hike will also include other scrub plant identification and is a great way to spend Christmas Eve.
  • Saturday, Dec. 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Holiday Invasives at George LeStrange Preserve, 4911 Ralls Road, Fort Pierce. We can help Santa from leaving hard-to-manage non-native plants and animals in your Christmas stockings or even in your yard. Several live species of exotic animals and plants will also be on exhibit during the program.
  • Monday, Dec. 28 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. – Birding in the Uplands at Indrio Savannas Preserve, 5275 Tozour Road, Fort Pierce. This birding experience will get participants up close to the preserve’s very special endemic avian resident, the Florida Scrub Jay. This site features uplands adjacent to a small lake, affording visitors to see a wide variety of resident and migratory bird species which utilize this unique ecosystem. A local naturalist will guide hikers along paths to look and listen for the presence of birds and other wildlife while enjoying the winter flowers adapted to an upland environment.
  • Saturday, Jan. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – New Year’s Family Hike at 10-Mile Creek Preserve, 3401 Gordy Road, Fort Pierce. Join a local naturalist for a fun New Year's Day Tradition – the family hike.A wonderful way to ring in the new year by enjoying the fine Florida weather and time with family and neighbors in the community - people and wildlife. Appropriate for all ages.

These educational programs are free, but space is limited, so registration is required. For more information and to register, contact the Environmental Resources Department at 772-577-3562 or visit www.stlucieco.gov/erd.

These hikes are geared toward ages 12 and older, unless otherwise noted. All minors must be accompanied by an adult. Proper footwear and water are required for all programs. Please leave pets at home.

Purchased through a voter-approved bond referendum, St. Lucie County manages more than two dozen preserves that are open to the public for passive recreation. For a list of all St. Lucie County parks and preserves visit the interactive map at http://gis.stlucieco.gov/parkspreserves.

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