Saturday, February 21, 2009

Field Trip! Field Trip!

Do you remember when you were in grade school and the teacher announced a field trip? Yesterday morning, I had that same quiver of delicious anticipation when I headed to Ulumay Park Wildlife Sanctuary on Merritt Island.

A bit of history. Originally home to Ais Indians four centuries ago, the land was designated a Brevard County Park in 1970. In 1993, the Brevard County Historical Commission dedicated the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary as a historical landmark. In July 2008, the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program purchased property adjoining the park, and about a year ago, Friends of Ulumay organized to preserve and enhance the natural resources of the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary. What a role model of collaborative effort for the common good!

And on December 17, 2008, The State Bureau of Historic Preservation, working with the Brevard County Historical Commission Manager Stephen R. Benn and Friends of Ulumay Vice-President Jack Lembeck, announced the designation of the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary as a Florida Heritage Landmark. The Landmark marker will be dedicated at the Ulumay entrance on Saturday, March 21st at 11:00 A.M.

Enough history. It was a beautiful Florida day, and my guides were Vince Lamb and the aforementioned Jack Lembeck, both core members of Friends of Ulumay, and Charlie Corbeil, whose photos you often see in these blog posts.
To get there, turn north onto Sykes Creek Parkway at the Steak and Shake across from Merritt Square Mile. Travel one mile until you see a row of these road signs. Turn in, and park along the dirt road. This 1,200 acre Sanctuary is in the middle of Merritt Island housing developments, but once you get into it, it's as quiet and remote as any wilderness.

Vince, Charlie, and Jack are standing by the gate you'll see shortly after you turn in. This is the entrance to the trails. Once you are inside, turn to the left for a four-mile trail or to the right for a two-mile trail. (The trails are not a loop, so when you get to the end of one of the trails, turn around and come back to the entrance.) You can ride your bicycle or just hoof it. Since the Sanctuary is located on Sykes Creek, if you are a kayaker, this is a wonderful destination.
Midway through the four-mile trail is a rustic viewing tower. The great blue heron on the top rail is optional! You'll see a variety of birds (this IS Florida, after all), but my favorite "find" was a black racer snake sunning himself.
This is a great place to go to "get away from it all" without having to travel far, buy a ticket, or stand in line. There are no bathroom facilities, and you'll want to take water and wear a hat. Jack and Vince tell me the mosquitoes are fierce there in the summer, in spite of mosquito control efforts. (Again, this IS Florida, and the Sanctuary is bordered by water.)
Please take the time to look at the Friends of Ulumay web site that Vince has developed, and if you're local, consider getting involved with the organization. These folks are certainly on my list of Conservation Heroes!

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