The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel celebrated National Trails Day with Animal Olympics and a one-hour hike along the Indigo Trail. This event was established in 1993 to inspire others to enjoy trails on the same day. It is now a permanent fixture on the calendars of trail clubs, businesses and government agencies.
"We encouraged Florida residents and visitors to participate in National Trails Day at one of our award-winning state parks or trials," said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. "It gives us a great time to discover the many healthy, affordable and fun recreational experiences to be enjoyed on more than 8,000 miles of trails throughout the state."
Trails do not magically appear; it takes many hours of planning, labor and negotiating to develop them. National Trails Day, sponsored by the American Hiking Society, also celebrates the hard work and support of volunteers, land agencies, businesses and community organizations that further the development of the nation's trails more than 200,000 miles nationwide to date.
Participants listen to Becky Wolff as she talks about bobcats as part of National Trails Day at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and parks across the country.
With summer in the air, "Ding" Darling has put together its 2012 Summer Program Schedule loaded with free activities. The programs, which run until Aug. 14, are as follows:
Reading in the Refuge Join a refuge naturalist to hear an exciting story about the different animals that live in the amazing ecosystem of the refuge. This 45-minute program begins at 11 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays in the classroom. Story-time is appropriate for pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade students.
Indigo Trail Walk Join refuge naturalists as they lead a tour identifying and discussing the ecosystem's plants, animals, birds and reptiles. This one-hour walk begins at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays meeting at the flagpole in front of the Education Center. Bring water and bug spray.
Family Beach Walk Meet at 9 a.m. Thursdays at Sanibel's Gulfside City Park for a one-hour exploration of the refuge's Perry Tract along with a shell expert from the Bailey-Mathew's Shell Museum. Parking fees will apply.
Natural Wonders What makes a bird a bird? Why is a manatee a sea cow? Is it a crocodile or alligator? Find the answers to these questions and more as you join a naturalist in exploring the refuge's unique ecosystem during this 30-minute program at 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the Education Center classroom.
Refuge Tour (Caravan) Come along on a one-and-half-hour car caravan tour of the refuge's Wildlife Drive at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. This tour highlights the many fascinating natural wonders of this unique mangrove ecosystem. Meet at the flagpole in front of the Education Center.
"There is something everyday, but Sunday," noted Refuge Ranger Becky Wolff.
However, there is more to the refuge than the summer programs. Earn your very own Junior Refuge Manager badge ask how at the education center front desk. Use technology to explore nature through the QR and Earthcaching trails. Look for signs to download a free code reader app for a smart phone or ask at the front desk how to borrow a GPS unit.