Tag Archives: Nature

How local parks can help families bond

Families who visit any of our 84 parks and facilities may find themselves experiencing a variety of mental, physical and social benefits that allow for greater bonding experiences. ”Families who play together, stay together,” is an important philosophy when it comes to enjoying our park system as a family. Check out exactly how a trip to our parks can improve your family’s well-being!

Physical

With thousands of acres of park land available for roaming, running and discovering, riverbend_kayaking_2parks allow for plenty of physical activity for both kids and adults. Whether you’re a family that enjoys water activities like swimming at any of our six pools and aquatic facilities, splashing and sliding at our two water parks, snorkeling at Phil Foster or DuBois Parks – or if you’re a land family who prefers strolling along boardwalks and trails at our nature centers, mountain biking at three trail locations, or simply enjoying some daytime play on our colorful and interactive playgrounds, there are so many ways parents and kids can get moving together. The physical activity opportunities available in our parks are so fun, the kids won’t even know they’re exercising! Among the many benefits of physical activity are increased fitness levels and a lower risk of obesity, and healthier bodies lead to healthier minds. Getting exercise at our parks and facilities will not only benefit the bodies and minds of adults, but will be setting a trend for children to continue the lifestyle as they age.

Mental

CoralCoveBeach.jpgAccording to the Florida Department of Health, there are a variety of mental health issues that both adults and kids in Palm Beach County face on a daily basis, including poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression, tension and stress. However, studies show physical activity and interacting with nature can improve your quality of life. By simply walking through the many trails and green space offered at parks like Riverbend, Okeeheelee, John Prince and more, families have the opportunity to escape from the pressures of everyday life that they face at school, work and even home. Our parks allow for tranquil getaways with the ones you love. For instance, Palm Beach County is the perfect location for beach days and evenings, and we offer 16 beach locations [Peanut Island and Phil Foster are located in the Intracoastal] where you and the kids can feel the ocean breeze on your face and watch the waves crash, putting your minds at ease. Mental health also plays an important role in one’s ability to maintain good physical health, make better health decisions, and live as healthy, productive citizens. To watch a short video on the mental health benefits of visiting our local parks, click here.

Social

If you and your family are looking for opportunities to bond on a social level, look no further than the Palm Beach County park system. Discovering new parks, trails, lakes and more will create a curious mindset in children. For instance, when visiting Okeeheelee, Green Cay or Daggerwing Nature Centers, kids can discover all sorts of animals and plants – and parents will have a blast learning along with their kids. Parents have the opportunity to teach and learn alongside their children, creating a bond kids will remember. There are so many opportunities to learn new things at our parks, from biking and kayaking to cultural and historical experiences, participating in these activities allow for asking and answering new questions, as well as unique chances for both parents and children to interact on a whole new level.

For park locations, visit www.pbcparks.com.southcounty_playground

Youth & Teens ‘Move & Groove’ at this year’s #pbcParks Summer Camp!

Palm Beach County’s West Boynton, Westgate & West Jupiter Recreation Facilities, as well as Aquatics, Okeeheelee Nature Center and Golf hosted a number of Summer & Specialty Camp programs to entertain kids during this year’s Summer Break. The kids went on field trips, learned about living healthy lifestyles through physical activity and healthy eating, played a number of games & activities, made tons of friends, and more!

Watch this short video for a recap of this year’s Summer Camp!

Visit pbcParks.com for more information.

Okeeheelee Nature Center Welcomes Specialty Camps, Field Trips

Did you know that our Nature Centers are the perfect field trip and camp destinations?  Okeeheelee Nature Center recently hosted a week-long specialty camp, where kids canoed, built bird houses, interacted with birds and deer that live at the Nature Center, and more. During a field trip to Okeeheelee, Green Cay or Daggerwing Nature Centers, kids can enjoy some of the same interactive and educational activities, like owl pellet dissection and animal encounters.

Okeeheelee Nature Center is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. We operate more than 80 regional, district, community, beach, and neighborhood parks, spanning several thousand acres. Our mission is to make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. This is achieved by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

Visit pbcParks.com for more information.

After School kids help plant garden at West Jupiter Recreation Center

Since February, kids in West Jupiter Recreation Center’s after school program have helped revive and maintain a garden filled with tomatoes, herbs, onions, peppers, strawberries, and more delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables!

The project was made possible using grant funds from the Walmart Foundation and National Recreation and Park Association. It teaches principles of the Florida Department of Health’s “5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!” initiative, which includes five or more fruits and vegetables a day, and one of more hour of physical activity.

West Jupiter Recreation Center is operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. We operate more than 80 regional, district, community, beach, and neighborhood parks, spanning several thousand acres. Our mission is to make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. This is achieved by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

For more about the garden project, watch this video.

Palm Beach County in top 100 family-friendly places to boat and fish

Okeeheelee2
Lake Okeeheelee in Okeeheelee Park (Courtesy: FWC)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department scored two local spots on a recent list of the nation’s best fishing and boating locales. Lake Osborne in John Prince Park and Okeeheelee Fish Management Area in Okeeheelee Park made the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns’ 2016 Top 100 Family-Friendly Places to Boat and Fish in the U.S. list. The Top 100 list was released leading up to National Fishing and Boating Week.

Cooperatively managed by the FWC and Palm Beach County, both sites provide great access and good recreational fishing for casual family outings and serious anglers alike. Fishing piers, boat ramps, fish attractors and fish feeders are combined with fish stocking and habitat enhancement to create productive angling that is easy to access. This collaboration allows both agencies to offer better recreational opportunities for their mutual constituents.

“These areas are readily available for residents and visitors alike and are known for producing some great angling opportunities,” said FWC regional Freshwater Fisheries administrator Barron Moody.

Lake Osborne is a 356-acre lake in suburban Lake Worth, with much of the shoreline incorporated in John Prince Park. It is easily accessed via John Prince Park, which offers ample shoreline access, fishing access from piers, and a two-lane paved boat ramp in excellent condition with an additional boat ramp located within the John Prince Lake

Osborne2
Lake Osborne in John Prince Park (Courtesy: FWC)

Osborne in John Prince ParkPark Campground. The lake provides above-average fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, channel catfish and exotic Mayan cichlid. Other species include black
crappie (specks), sunshine bass stocked by the FWC plus peacock bass. Some outstanding largemouth bass fishing can be found there, with fish exceeding 8 pounds.  A brochure with map are at MyFWC.com/fishing, click “Freshwater,” “Sites & Forecasts,” “South Region” and “Lake Osborne.”

Okeeheelee FMA is a 157-acre lake conveniently situated in West Palm Beach. This site offers fishing from the shoreline as well as piers. Okeeheelee FMA contains an abundance of native sunfish and hatchery-raised catfish. The catfish are stocked each year to maintain a steady supply of fish for anglers. FWC fisheries biologist John Cimbaro has been co-managing the lake with Palm Beach County for over 15 years.

Okeeheelee1
Lake Okeeheelee in Okeeheelee Park (Courtesy: FWC)

“While Okeeheelee bass average less than 14 inches, their abundance here offers plenty of action and fun on light fishing tackle or fly fishing gear,” said Cimbaro. “This is also a perfect spot for someone who is learning to fish for bass to get lots of practice.”

Gasoline motors may not be used on boats at Okeeheelee, making it a peaceful site to fish from kayak or canoe. A brochure with map are at MyFWC.com/fishing, then click on “Freshwater,” “Sites & Forecasts,” “Fish Management Areas” then “Lake Okeeheelee.”

Along with fishing enhancements, both sites offer abundant parking, lakeside trails, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, restrooms and other amenities for a great family trip. Both Okeeheelee and John Prince Park are owned by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, and ensuring access to beaches and water bodies are a core service of their department.

The RBFF’s Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns held a nationwide vote to provide families with a recommended list of locations to visit. Criteria for these top locales included not only the quality of fishing and boating, but proximity to urban areas for easy access and the presence of amenities that contribute to a fun family outing.

Tens of thousands celebrate first bud of Spring at Morikami’s 37th annual Hatsume Fair

On April 16-17, Palm Beach County’s Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens hosted its largest event of the year – a two-day spring celebration known as the annual Hatsume Fair.

Watch this short video to get a glimpse of the colors, traditions and festivities that were enjoyed by more than 16,000 people!

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is owned and operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department and is located at 4000 Morikami Park Road in Delray Beach.

We operate more than 80 regional, district, community, beach, and neighborhood parks, spanning several thousand acres. Our mission is to make the quality of life for Palm Beach County residents and visitors better by providing diverse, safe and affordable recreation services, welcoming parks, and enriching social and cultural experiences. This is achieved by promoting wellness, fostering environmental stewardship, contributing economic value, and by improving our community every day for this and future generations.

Visit www.pbcparks.com for more information.

Thousands Celebrate the Night at Dark Sky Festival

It’s not often we get a chance to turn down the lights and take in the beauty that the night sky has to offer. On Saturday, February 27, over 2,000 Palm Beach County residents, tourists, adults, kids, and nature lovers alike did just that – for free – at the fourth annual Dark Sky Festival.

People of all ages visited Palm Beach County’s Okeeheelee Nature Center from 6-10 p.m. to escape the glowing lights we are so often bombarded by, to gaze at the stars, learn about animals, and enjoy the peacefulness of the dark while having fun with their friends, family, and loved ones.

Campfire, animals, movies & more!

The night was filled with opportunities for visitors to roam the grounds, enjoying the DSC_0036
darkness. Indoors, owls, snakes, lizards and turtles gave animal lovers a chance to learn about the animals that depend on the dark for survival. Curious kids took turns dissecting owl pellets, and visitors of all ages learned about owls and bats through presentations from passionate experts.

Outdoors, active guests enjoyed guided nature hikes through the dark, while others gazed at stars and planets through telescopes. An outdoor classroom allowed guests to soak in the beauty of the night sky, while listening to campfire stories and eating s’mores.

Benji Studt, the Environmental Program Supervisor with Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resources Management, taught a workshop that introduced participants to Palm Beach County’s natural areas and the photographic and recreational opportunities that lay right outside our front doors. “I introduced participants to some tools to improve their composition skills,” said Studt.

IMG_3975_PSStudt then handed the workshop over to local artist and FAU student Max Jackson, who taught the class about techniques to photograph the night sky. After the presentation, the class enjoyed Jackson’s new short film, “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies”, which shows time-lapse footage of the stars passing by iconic landscapes from across the country.  The film is a compilation of footage over the last two years, when Jackson spent his summers chasing the darkest skies in the country.  Watch “Pitch Black Light, A Journey Through America’s Darkest Skies” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQdijzuCe3A

 What is light pollution?

Seeing_Stars_Poster

The goal of the event was to teach visitors about the negative affects of light pollution and to encourage better practices with lighting. Guided night hikes, a campfire and s’mores, outdoor movies, photography workshops, bat and owl presentations, live wildlife exhibits, among other activities, helped guests appreciate the darkness.

Light pollution is the “introduction of artificial light into the environment”. The event focused on the impacts of light pollution, and the benefits of having natural night skies. Excessive light pollution threatens humans and many animals, including sea turtles, owls, bats, and others that depend on the dark sky for survival. Excessive light pollution may also waste electricity and destroy the beauty of the night sky.

Why should we “turn down the lights”?

DSC_0056Various experts, photographers, and astronomers were on hand Saturday to explain the dangers of light pollution.

“Turning down the lights helps us all,” said Studt. According to Studt, light pollution impacts a variety of animals. “The natural light provided by the night sky gives sea turtle hatchlings the ability to find the ocean when they hatch.”

Furthermore, Studt explained that migratory birds use the night sky as a roadmap to their seasonal destinations, and humans feel effects to their circadian rhythm as a result of light pollution.

“We are literally losing our stars because of light pollution,” said Callie Sharkey, manager at Okeeheelee Nature Center, who also cited research that links artificial light to breast cancer, while Studt explained, “artificial light pollution is now being linked to human disorders such as obesity and depression.”

What can you do to help?

 In addition to educating the public on the effect of light pollution, the event aimed to increase awareness on what steps can be taken to help fix the problem. You can start helping today:

  1. Check your home lights – is glare hiding potential intruders? Do your lights shine down, or out and up where energy is wasted?
  1. Turn off unnecessary lights – and use motion sensor switches for effective deterrence.
  1. Shield and lower lights, and use dark-sky friendly fixtures.
  1. Spread the word – tell businesses when you see that their lights are bad. Bad lights aren’t just unpleasant, they’re harmful, especially in coastal areas where turtles nest.

An annual event

 Each year, thousands of enthused visitors make their way to Okeeheelee Nature Center to gaze at the stars and learn about what they can do to make the night sky more visible for humans and animals the depend on it. “We had people from all ages and demographics, and the response is overwhelmingly positive…people were impressed with how unique the event was,” said Sharkey.DSC_0015

This annual event is one of the largest dark sky events in the country; it was made possible through a partnership between the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, Environmental Resources Management Department, International Dark-Sky Association, among others.

For more information on how you can help fix the problem of light pollution, please visit the International Dark-Sky Association, www.darksky.org.

View photos on Flickr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thousands of photos snapped at Okeeheelee’s Raptor Day

Cassandra Jean (2)
Photo Credit: Cassandra Jean

Thousands of photos were snapped at Palm Beach County’s Okeeheelee Nature Center on Saturday, January 30, as photographers of all ages captured the majestic beauty of nine birds of prey, aged 3-20 years old.

OKNC sold out of tickets for its Raptor Day photography event, welcoming 50 photographers to the facility – ranging from 11 to 93 years old! Photographers from all over the country traveled to Palm Beach County to take advantage of this unique opportunity, traveling from Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and New Jersey, just to name a few. The event even drew in some international guests.

“This was a very unique opportunity for people to see all of our birds at the same time and that’s certainly never been done and never been done for photographers,” said Callie Sharkey, the Nature Center’s manager.

The fundraising event for Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center provided the photographers with a unique opportunity to showcase all of the raptors at the facility – various owls, hawks, falcons and others – during private sessions with the birds. The birds sat outdoors for natural lighting on real wood perches, a natural background was set up behind them, allowing the photographers to play with a more natural setting. According to Sharkey, all of the birds were cooperative for the entire event, and all of the photographers were respectful of the birds. Some of the birds even took to roosting and preening, signs that they were comfortable with their environment.

Seven of the birds were from Okeeheelee Nature Center, while the other two were from Daggerwing and Green Cay Nature Centers. All of the birds photographed during the event are cared for at Palm Beach County’s three nature centers as they are non-releasable. Each bird has been through rehab for various reasons, whether they have been wounded by humans or arrived at the nature center as a fully imprinted bird.

Matteo Cappella
Photo Credit: Matteo Cappella

Sharkey said the Nature Center would like to plan this event again in the future, as it allows photographers – both professional and amateur – to gain a respect for the animals they’re photographing and become further educated on why the animals are being cared for at the nature centers, which leads to further conservation efforts. Promoting stewardship of nature and natural sites is a core service of the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.

Okeeheelee Nature Center is owned and operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department and is located in Okeeheelee Park at 7715 Forest Hill Blvd in West Palm Beach.

We’d love to see your photos! If you have a photo taken at the Raptor Day event, you can share it on the Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfOkeeheeleeNatureCenter/

Check out the photos submitted below, and be sure to keep checking our blog for more photos as they come in!

View photos on Flickr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tips on coexisting with our parks’ animals

Hundreds of animal species call our parks “home.” From wild birds to tortoises and bobcats to alligators, every animal plays an important role in each ecosystem found throughout Palm Beach County’s park system.

Watch this video to find out how you can safely enjoy our parks while helping to ensure our wild inhabitants enjoy their home.