Message From The Director
This past week while visiting a park with some friends, we found ourselves following a northern banded water snake down a river and passing binoculars around to see a Scarlet Tanager in the crown of a hackberry tree. Many of us love parks because of the chance to see the wildlife. Through my career there are several highlights with wild animal encounters, in fact, if you spend any time talking to a park employee you will here tales of their wildlife encounters. In our small world, where many of us are friends on social media, my feed can be full of birds, bats, bugs, turtles and more. It’s why we do what we do.
As spring ebbs and summer comes in hot, wildlife experiences are everywhere. Our sea turtle programs up and down the coast are rolling and lots of our staff work with nests and even assist with sea turtle rescues. Deer and fawns are everywhere and many an employee has experienced that dreaded moment when a visitor walks in carrying a fawn they found “abandoned”. If you’re lucky you may stumble on an owl or eagle nest with hatchlings, and I promise when a park employee finds that you can guarantee they will be checking it daily for progress on their babies. Rangers on the lakes and ponds love to find the fish beds and watch the process, or maybe it’s a great year for tadpoles or cicadas! Some of our team can take you right to the spot that some of their favorite snakes hang out, or they know exactly which rotting log certain salamanders are hanging out under. After years on a park, many of our teams are in tune to the coming and going of their park’s wildlife, and if you ask, believe me, they would love to tell you about it.
Our team is also familiar with the other "wild life" that happens to arrive this time of year. As the weather heats up and visitation extends through the week, parks are once again teeming with swarms of park visitors. They come with their young, by themselves and in groups and descend upon every corner of our parks. Like the regular wild residents of the park, most of these new visitors are there because they love the park and want to take care of it. In fact, they are as excited about the regular residents at the park as we are. They want to experience a deer walking through their site, a bird calling above their picnic and a “close encounter” with an alligator as it rests in the sun. We love sharing and providing the park for their enjoyment.
Some of our new visitors, however, don’t always know how to enjoy the park, protect the wildlife and make everyone’s visit enjoyable. So here are my top 5 rules to help you enjoy the park when you visit, and make sure you are not impacting anyone else’s visit or damaging their home!
1. Leave no trash behind- That is everything from dog poop and cigarette butts to food and party supplies, dispose of all it properly.
2. Be Patient- Gate attendants, retail workers, rangers, maintenance employees, volunteers and all of our team are glad you are here but have already had a busy spring. Treat them like you want your family treated.
3. Be considerate of those around you- Is your experience negatively impacting someone else’s? Music to loud dog barking, or even fishing too close to swimmers are some examples.
4. Know before you go- Check out our website for information about what’s going on at the park you are heading to before you go.
5. Take time to experience it- Plan enough time to relax, be distracted and enjoy yourself. You deserve it!
So as you visit parks this summer, I hope that your experience exceeds your expectations when you visit us and that you enjoy our parks' wildlife instead of becoming it! See you in a park soon.