Parks invite residents to celebrate 2015 National Public Lands Day

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  • | 1:59 p.m. September 17, 2015
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  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WEST ORANGE — There is one day each September when volunteers throughout the country pack up their sunscreen and bug spray and take a trek to their local parks and preserves — not only to enjoy some time outdoors but also to participate in the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands.

National Public Lands Day has been recognized every year since 1994. Some of its goals are to educate Americans about the environment and natural resources, build partnerships between the public sector and local community and improve public lands for outdoor recreation. 

“Often what defines us as a nation and as a community is our shared commitment to the lands around us,” said Zach Prusak, Central Florida Conservation Director for the Nature Conservancy Florida. “A part of this commitment is on-the-ground action. It is important to recognize those who work to manage the sites and the many volunteers that act as stewards of these lands.”

Prusak said it has been medically proven that spending time outdoors relaxes and invigorates the mind and body.

“Some of the best medicine is immersing yourself in the natural world around you,” he said. 

In West Orange County, there will be two events in celebration of National Public Lands Day next weekend that are open to parks supporters of any age and walk of life. 

Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

3401 South Hiawassee Road, Orlando (MetroWest)

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26

Bill Frederick Park is hosting its sixth annual event for National Public Lands Day. Admission and children’s activities are free.

“It’s grown quite a bit since the first one,” said Naomi Nelson, coordinator of the event, who has been on staff all six years. “I think our vendors are getting better and better every year.”

One of the most popular activities at the Bill Frederick Park event is an area where children and adults can interact with farm animals. Representatives from SeaWorld also will be on-site with a few of their Animal Ambassadors. The mobile butterfly exhibit is another favorite. 

Active families can hike, bike, swim, play sand volleyball or play disc golf. Those looking for something a little more restful can learn to fish from a local expert.

“He teaches knot-tying and what type of lures to use, and (families) really enjoy that,” Nelson said.

Another unique activity will be the “Out on a Limb” tree climb. An expert will guide children and adults as they use ropes and safety gear to climb a tree.

“He found a really good tree in the park that was perfect for demonstrating tree-climbing,” Nelson said. 

Food vendors will be at the event, but attendees can also rent a pavilion and host their own barbecue. 

There will be a first-come, first-served tree giveaway, so that families can take a piece of nature home with them. 

Johns Lake Conservation Area

880 Avalon Road, Winter Garden

8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Johns Lake Conservation Area just opened a few weeks ago, and National Public Lands Day will be its first event.

“We wanted the people to be more familiar with the property,” said Nancy Rodlun, community outreach coordinator for Orange County. “We really think it’s going to be a fantastic place for people to come and picnic and have access to Johns Lake.”

Attendees can participate in educational activities, such as a fishing tutorial for all ages, and view wildlife. The conservation area is good for birding because it is set along the Apopka Flyway, which is a migration path for many water birds, Rodlun said. 

There also will be opportunities to serve. Volunteers are needed to help build the picnic area, tables and parking area, right across from the kayak and canoe lodge.

Johns Lake is an Orange County Green PLACE property, meaning it is particularly environmentally sensitive. Guests can enter their photos from Johns Lake or any other Green PLACE area in the Orange Audubon Society’s photo contest. Winning photos will be featured in Orange County’s 2017 nature calendar. To submit photos, email [email protected].

Attendees are asked to pack a lunch and RSVP to [email protected]. Those who RSVP by Sept. 18 will receive a T-shirt. 


13: The number of nation- al parks, seashores and preserves in Florida.

171: The number of state parks/trails in Florida.

99: The number of Orange County parks, preserves and recreation sites.

18,500: The number of jobs sustained by state parks in Florida.

175,000: The number of volunteers nationwide for National Public Lands Day 2014.

$1.2 billion: Generated by state parks per year.

Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].


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