Take a tour through St. Lucie County’s “winter wonderlands” this December as the Environmental Resources Department continues its Guided Nature Program series. These guided tours give participants an opportunity to explore some of the 42 miles of hiking trails that are located throughout the county’s nearly 10,000 acres of environmental preserves.
Unless otherwise specified, these programs are free, open to the public, and reservations are required. Hikes for December include:
Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9 – 11 a.m. – Introduction to Plant ID at Spruce Bluff Preserve, 611 SE Dar Lane, Port St. Lucie. Join us on a hike through this 97-acre site that offers a diverse array of plant species within mixed upland and wetland natural communities. Learn about plant structure and basic keys used to help identify plants we discover along the trail and boardwalk.
Friday, Dec. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. – Flight of the Bat Paddle board Excursion at Richard E. Becker Preserve, 3398 Selvitz Road, Fort Pierce. Enjoy a leisurely paddle down the north fork of the St. Lucie River searching for bat roosts. Participants will witness the beautiful flight acrobatics that these fuzzy mammals make as they head out on their nightly adventures. Previous paddleboard experience is required for this excursion. The cost is $10 per person. Paddleboards with ankle leash, paddle, and personal flotation devices will be provided to participants. No online registration; please call 772-462-2526 to reserve your space. Reservations are a must.
Saturday, Dec. 10 from 8 to 10 a.m. and 10 a.m. to noon – 2nd Annual St. Lucie Christmas Bird Count at George LeStrange Preserve, 4911 Ralls Road, Fort Pierce. Ever wondered what birders do during the National Audubon Society’s annual “Christmas Bird Count”? Join us and members of the St. Lucie County chapter of the National Audubon Society to learn basic birding and counting techniques. We’ll hike to identify and count bird species and record our sightings on field cards for submission to St. Lucie County and the National Audubon Society – this is great citizen science event. Feel free to participate in one or both sessions.
Saturday, Dec. 10 from 3 – 5 p.m.: Ecotone Ecology Hike at Ancient Oaks Preserve, 4650 Oleander Ave., Fort Pierce. Celebrate 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 and how too much of an edge effect can be a bad thing for flora and fauna.
Thursday, Dec. 15 from 8 to 10 a.m.: Birding Basics Hike at George LeStrange Preserve, 4911 Ralls Road, Fort Pierce. Birding is a 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 avian stop-over hotspots by learning the basics about birding from an experienced naturalist. Please bring your binoculars, if you have them.
Thursday, Dec. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m.: Moonrise Hike at Steven J. Fousek Preserve, 8551 Carlton Road, Port St. Lucie. Join us for an adventurous moonlight hike in the prairie hammocks. We will be looking for the nocturnal animals and birds that call this preserve home. This is a rare opportunity to use the moonlight to explore who is out and about after dark.
Sunday, Dec. 18 from 9 to 11 a.m.: Foraging through Florida Hike at St. Lucie Village Heritage Preserve, 305 Torpey Road, Fort Pierce. From Native Americans to citrus farming and moonshining, this 75-acre site has been a key part to St. Lucie’s adventurous and wild history. Learn about the many uses of the flora and fauna, including methods used by early settlers who managed to survive Florida’s harsh environments during a hike through the beautiful hammocks adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon.
Friday, Dec. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m.: Fire in Florida Ecosystems Hike at Sheraton Scrub Preserve, 2222 North 21 St., Fort Pierce. Nature incorporated fire into Florida’s ecosystems for a very specific reason: Many plant and animal species need it to survive and thrive. Learn why ecosystems found on this 56-acre preserve need fire, how it helps animals, and what you can do in your own yard to protect against wildfire.
Wednesday, Dec. 28 from 2 to 4 p.m.: Discovering the new Indian Hills Preserve Hike at Indian Hills Recreation Area, 52 Savannah Road, Fort Pierce. The county’s newest preserve is ready to “meet the public.” This property boasts a retention pond aquatic habitat and a Slash Pine Savannah near the Indian River Lagoon. This is an opportunity for visitors to visit the property to explore it by land, learn some of its natural and human history and how the site is managed in partnership between the City of Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County.
For more information and to find the link for registration, please visit www.slchikes.org, call 772-462-2526 or email email@example.com.
Programs are usually limited to 15 people helping to allow participants to immerse themselves into the county’s beautiful natural areas. Programs target ages 12 and older unless otherwise noted. All minors must be accompanied by an adult. Proper footwear and water are required for all programs, and 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 more information about St. Lucie County’s Environmentally Significant Lands visit: www.stlucieco.gov/erd. For a list of all St. Lucie County parks and preserves visit the interactive map at http://gis.stlucieco.gov/parkspreserves.