May is a wonderful month to be a friend and to be a kid! Since May 1st marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season, we hope you’ll be a friend to sea turtles. There are four species of sea turtles that nest in the Florida Panhandle. Loggerheads and Green sea turtles are the most common. Loggerheads are known for their proportionately large head. Green sea turtles are known for being an herbivore as an adult. They feast on sea grass which gives their skin its green coloration. Leatherbacks, the largest sea turtle, and the Kemp’s Ridley, the most endangered sea turtle, also occasionally nest in the Florida Panhandle. The Kemp’s Ridley shown in the photo nested in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in May of 2017.
How can you be a friend to sea turtles, you might ask? You can keep the beach #CleanDarkFlat. Clean – remove all your belongings, including your trash, from the beach each time you leave. Sadly, what is left on the beach ends up in the Gulf of Mexico for sea turtles to get tangled i, be impaled with, or eat. Dark – use only natural light on the beach at night. If you must use an artificial light, please use only a turtle friendly red light. Artificial lights like cell phones, camera flashes, flashlights and porch lights disturb sea turtles during nesting. They also distract hatchlings from making it safely to the Gulf. Remember, sea turtles dig the dark! Flat – fill in your holes and knock down your sandcastles each time you leave the beach. Sea turtles can get trapped in holes. Did you know moving around sandcastles can cause a sea turtle to either lay their nest in an unsafe location or not lay their nest at all? You can help sea turtles face fewer obstacles in their lifetime by being a friend and keeping the beach #CleanDarkFlat!
You can also be a friend of the park. The Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is a fantastic organization that helps the park with fundraising, seeking sponsorships for park events and providing volunteer support for various events and projects. You can learn more about this wonderful group by visiting www.topsailparkfriends.org. If you’d rather meet them in person, swing by Breakfast with a Ranger on the second Saturday of each month at 9am.
Why is May also a wonderful month to be a kid? If you asked someone under the age of 18 you might hear, “It is the end of the school year!” We think it is a wonderful month to be a kid because May 18th is Kids to Parks Day. This year for even more excitement at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, it is also the Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Jamboree for the Florida Panhandle. Between 9am – 1pm, kids will have the opportunity to explore the park, be sworn in as Junior Rangers, experience a whirlwind of fun Junior Ranger activities, learn about other Florida State Parks in the area and discover ways to be safe while enjoying the great outdoors. Can’t make the Junior Ranger Jamboree? Your child can still be a Junior Ranger for the Florida State Parks. Visit the Ranger Station any day between 8am – 5pm to get started. For more information about this event and all programs going on at the park please visit www.floridastateparks.org or follow the Friends on Facebook @FriendsofTopsailHillPreserveStatePark. See you soon!
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