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State parks celebrates outdoors month with programs

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TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott has proclaimed June as Great Outdoors Month in Florida in recognition of the outstanding recreational opportunities provided by Florida’s natural resources, including forests, parks, trails and other public lands and waters. Great Outdoors Month is celebrated across the country each June, highlighting the health and social benefits of active fun outdoors.
June is the perfect time to celebrate the environment by getting outside and enjoying the state's beautiful wild, green spaces and its blue waterways. Florida's state parks and trails provide opportunities to ride bicycles or horses, paddle kayaks or canoes, enjoy birds and butterflies, run or hike and more.
“Florida enjoys a wealth of scenic recreational and conservation lands,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “With our award-winning state parks, state trails and historic sites, Floridians and visitors have an abundance of healthy, affordable opportunities to explore and experience the great outdoors in their own recreational style.”
Between April and June last year, approximately 21.8 million visitors came to Florida to experience the 12 million acres of beautiful public lands, which include lakes, rivers and islands.
Great Outdoors Month focuses on celebrating our natural resources and encourages communities to come together around healthy activities that Florida’s residents and visitors can enjoy at little or no cost. From the rustic pine forests and rivers of North Florida to the tropical, island paradise of the Florida Keys, the state’s naturally diverse landscape serves as an outdoor playground for all ages.
Throughout the state, activities will take place to celebrate Great Outdoors Month and other banner days occurring in June.             Support Florida state parks in Coca-Cola's "America's Favorite Park" contest by placing votes through Facebook. Four state parks are in the top 25: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Long Key State Park, Curry Hammock State Park and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.  
In addition, to support Florida’s state parks in a vote about best places to fish, please visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Facebook page.
Activities during Great Outdoors Month in Florida State Parks include:

Summer Reading Program
10:30 a.m. Wednesdays, June 20, 27
Big Lagoon State Park
12301 Gulf Beach Highway
Pensacola
Partnering with the Southwest Branch Library, Big Lagoon State Park will host special summer reading programs at the amphitheater including music, gymnastics, a cartoonist and more.

Discovery Saturdays
10 a.m. Saturday, June 16
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
5 East Quay Road
Key West
Discovery Saturdays are held on the third Saturday of every month, and provide kids an opportunity to have fun while learning about the environmental and cultural resources of the Florida Keys. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade are invited to participate from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Attendance is free, and pre-registration is recommended. Call (305) 809-4750 to register.

Humongous Hurricanes
10 a.m. Saturday, June 16
Dr. Nancy Foster Environmental Complex
35 East Quay Road
Key West
Play games and make crafts while learning about hurricane preparedness and weather safety.

Sing Like a Bird
2 p.m. Saturday, June 16
Little Talbot Island State Park 
12157 Heckscher Drive
Jacksonville,
Join a park ranger to learn the different songs of Talbot Island’s feathered residents. The program will take place at the multi-use trail pavilion located at the south beach area on Little Talbot Island. No reservations are necessary and the program is free with regular park admission.

Nighttime “Turtle Walks”
9 p.m. Thursday, June 16, 23, 30
Sebastian Inlet State Park
142351 North A1A
Vero Beach
Learn all about sea turtles in a visual presentation followed by a beach walk of up to three miles which may include the chance to view a nesting loggerhead sea turtle. (Limited registration; reservations required.)

Pollinator Day
10 a.m. Saturday, June 23
GTM Research Reserve
505 Guana River Road
Ponte Vedra Beach
The GTM Research Reserve along with the Florida Native Plant Society, Sea Oats chapter, will have an array of displays and activities that educate all about local pollinators, as well as a native plant sale. Learn about pollinators and how they significantly contribute to our ecosystem and economy. Also, learn how you can help attract them to your own yard.

Animal Signs
2 p.m. Saturday, June 23
Fort George Island Cultural State Park
State Road A1A South
Jacksonville
Join a Park Ranger for a presentation and leisurely guided hike through different Florida ecosystems on a quest to characterize tracks left by an assortment of critters. This program will take place at the Ribault Club on Fort George Island Cultural State Park. No reservations are necessary and the program is free.

Cradles Of The Ocean
2 p.m. Thursday, June 28
Estero Bay
3266 North Sailboat Avenue
Crystal River
We will take a refreshing journey into the waters of the bay, wading into mudflats and seagrass beds at low tide to find many of the plants and animals that call this estuary home. Using dip nets and seine nets we will collect organisms such as fish, shrimp, crabs, snails and seagrasses and place them in buckets or magnifiers to take a closer look. The guide will explain how each living creature plays an important role in the ecosystem. You'll be amazed at what can be found just past the shoreline, what few take the time to see. Come and let the estuary surprise you!