tampabay.com

Nature, in all its glory

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published May 10, 2007


DUNEDIN

With a 10 a.m. ceremony today, Florida State Parks will officially open the new Rotary Centennial Nature Center at Honeymoon Island State Park. The 416-acre island, once the northern part of Hog Island, has a history as old and varied as Florida itself. "This is not the destination, " said Tim Marshall, the park's nature center facilitator. "This is a stepping-stone to get people excited and inspired." Here's a look at what visitors can find:

Exhibits

The park's nature center - a renovated former bathhouse - is home to interactive exhibits and videos on geological, animal and human history, including the personal stories of those who have known the island best, like the late Myrtle Scharrer Betz. She grew up on the island and lived through the 1921 hurricane that split Hog Island into two pieces now called Honeymoon and Caladesi islands.

Panoramic view

The exhibits include a recreated mesic pine flatwoods habitat complete with raccoons, gopher tortoise, coachwhip snake and slash pine tree with nesting ospreys. But to enjoy the real thing, walk out to the deck for a panoramic view. The center's volunteer docents lead impromptu hikes whenever staffing allows and groups can schedule tours. The docents also will give talks each month on a subject that is their specialty.

Nature trails

Visitors can start out for the Osprey trail, where they might see great horned owls or ospreys. Or they can opt for the shorter, new nature trail loop nearby with a gopher tortoise burrow. The trail is not paved and has some bumps, so shoes with closed toes are recommended. And keep an eye out for reptiles.

Other park activities

The new nature center is a focal point for embarking on activities already offered in the park, including playgrounds, a dog beach, swimming, fishing, kayaking, surfing, bird-watching, hiking and lunching at the picnic pavilions or in the outdoor cafe.

Hours

The new visitor and nature center at Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.islandparks.org/naturecenter. Call the center at 727 738-2903. To schedule guided hikes, call (727) 469-5942.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.