Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2003
Business Category - 2nd Place
|Company:||Submitted by Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, Sarasota, FL|
|Project Name:||Around the Bend Nature Tours|
For four years, Around the Bend Nature Tours has provided exceptional
outdoor education opportunities to schools and the general public by introducing
them to the natural environment of coastal Southwest Florida. The program
was created in order to educate people about the local marine environment
and to teach them stewardship skills that might promote future preservation
of the Gulf of Mexico and our surrounding bays. Around the Bend Nature
Tours provides tours of the barrier islands, mangrove forests, and salt
marshes, bird-watching tours, kayak trips and sunset excursions. The participants
learn about the local flora and fauna of coastal Southwest Florida.
Several programs have been initiated to inform the public about the health and history of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding local waters. Walking tours at several restoration sites like Leffis Key Coquina Baywalk on Bradenton Beach, Joan M. Durante Community Park on Longboat Key, and Emerson Point Park on Snead Island in Palmetto. These tours have been available since March of 1999 and hundreds of adults have participated over the years.
A more popular program has been the Sunset History Cruise leaving from Cortez in which tales of ancient fisherfolk mingle with the modern day – stories of the people living off the sea from the Native Americans, to the pioneers of the 1800’s, to the present day fishermen in Cortez that feed the world on harvests from the Gulf of Mexico. The stewardship that these fishermen have historically practiced inspires current visitors to protect these waters. In 2001 about 350 adult visitors, both locals and tourists participated in this Backwaters History Cruise offering.
Currently Around the Bend Nature Tours has been focusing on environmental education for school groups in the Tampa Bay area. Water conservation, use of native plants and awareness of non-point source pollution from homes and yards has been the message conveyed to school aged children as they explore the environment in parks around the waterways of Manatee & Sarasota counties.