Alistair likes this exhibit the most.

He loves spinning the wheel round and round.

I love to stroll the boardwalk on a gorgeous day like this. We often see osprey flying overhead.

We always stop here on our walks to enjoy the view.

If you live in Tampa Bay and haven’t checked out Weedon Island Preserve, I hope you will soon. Actually, there’s a decent chance that you never knew it existed. Even though it’s near Gandy Boulevard and 4th Street, two major roads in St. Petersburg, it’s a little out-of-the-way. If you head east down 83rd Avenue from 4th Street, you’ll eventually run into the entrance to the preserve. I often take my boys (ages 3-years and 3 months) to Weedon Island to go on long walks through the mangroves and to explore the Cultural and Natural History Center. On hot days, I recommend getting there by 10:00 a.m. and strolling the boardwalk, then check out the indoor exhibits. The preserve is open daily from 7:00 a.m. until the posted time and the center is open Thursday-Monday from 9:00 a.m. til 4:00 p.m..

Weedon Island has a 6,600 ft. Interpretive Trail that is both wheelchair and stroller friendly. The trail opened in May 2007 and it has many educational signed posted along the way. Visitors can learn all kinds of information about the plants, animals and the history of the island. There’s a sign that tells you what a snag is and why it’s important not to remove it. Another sign shares the benefits of a rotting log. One of the funnier ones, is a sign that informs trail walkers about the different kinds of scat (animal poop) you can find along the way. These signs are colorful and interactive which is appealing to kids. However, my son is a little too short (3ft. 3 in.) to see some of them. While walking you may see lots of birds perched in trees or flying overhead and lots of magnificent spider webs in the trees–spiders included of course. I wish I knew what kind they are. Down below you can see the roots of the mangroves and maybe a snake and some crabs making their way through the mud. If you get tired, there’s a deck overlooking the lake. The kids always look for kayakers and birds swooping down to catch fish. It’s a nice spot to take a break, grab a drink and enjoy the view.

If you need to get out the heat, because it’s almost always above 80 degrees here, then you can head inside the Cultural and Natural History Center. The center has central air conditioning, bathrooms, a very small gift shop, and helpful volunteers. You’ll also find lots of wonderful hands-on exhibits that are very educational and entertaining. There’s a man-made mangrove that you can crawl through, broken pottery you can rebuild with magnets, videos about marine research and all kinds of stuff to push and pull on. My son has been enjoying the exhibits since he was a little more than a year old and I think it would be fun for elementary kids too. Adults and older ones can learn about water conservation and pollution, ecosystems, snake habits,  the history of Weedon Island, how the natives made canoes from pine trees and how they can make their backyards more wildlife-friendly.

Right now the county is talking about shutting down the preserve, as well as Brooker Creek Preserve because of budget cuts. I would hate to lose this beautiful place; it’s such a great resource for Pinellas county schools and families. I would gladly pay a small fee to get in, if it meant keeping it around for a long time. So please take your family to Weedon Island Preserve  while it’s still here and let the county know how much you appreciate it!

Weedon Island is located at 1800 Weedon Drive NE St. Petersburg, FL 33702

For more information, visit these websites:

http://www.weedonislandpreserve.org

http://www.weedonislandpreserve.org/

http://www.brookercreekpreserve.org/

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