Nature Center’s Eco-Fair Educates on Unique Environment
by Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Editorial Assistant
Last Saturday, March 7, the Nature Center sponsored the second annual Eco-Fair on Buccaneer Island. The Fair, spearheaded by ORC Naturalist Jeanette Rivera, was designed to educate Members of all ages about the unique environment – an important part of life at Ocean Reef.
Eco-Fair attendees interacted with owls, held several species of starfish and sea urchins, and were given wildflower seeds to plant and attract butterflies. But the most significant part of the day was the educational takeaway. Several local organizations set up exhibits, including the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), Island Dolphin Care, Everglades Outpost, Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, The Dive Shop, and more.
“The Eco-Fair is centered around education in a fun and interactive way,” explained Rivera, who said planning a fair of this kind is a dream she’s had for a while. “Members and their children leave Buccaneer Island with the knowledge of how they can make a difference in our environment. The Nature Center is very proud to provide our Members with this opportunity.”
While the Eco-Fair is a once-a-year event, the Nature Center offers similar experiences on a regular basis. The newly renovated Center is a one-stop shop for adventurous and enlightening experiences with the knowledgeable Jeanette as the perfect guide.
ORC’s Naturalist describes the Center as a “gem.” While most of its animals are exotic, Jeanette brings in native animals, like baby alligators and red rat snakes, to showcase what we have in our own backyard. “I get introduce children to snakes, parrots, guinea pigs, tortoises, hedgehogs, sometimes for the first time,” she said. “I love when kids tell me, ‘Because of you, now I have a pet snake or gecko’ and they send me pictures and ask questions about proper care.” Jeanette said educating people about nature is truly what she lives for: “I have the ability to offer Eco Kayak and Walking Tours, and provide trips outside The Reef to the Everglades National Park, Wild Bird Center, CRF, Alligator Farm – different organizations that play a huge role in the Ocean Reef ecosystem. I’m thankful the Club gives me a platform to offer these opportunities to kids and adults.”
The Nature Center is open in season Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. (extra hours during holidays). To learn more, call Concierge at 305- 367-6516 or the Nature Center at 305-367-2611, ext. 2473.