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Polk's Nature Discovery Centre
Polk’s Nature Discovery Centre
I could not believe that I had only just discovered this place when I went in January 2012 for the first time. It was only when I read the literature that I realised how recently it was developed and my fervent hope is that when everyone finds this absolute gem, it will remain unspoilt and much as it is right now.
Polk’s Nature Discovery Centre was opened on November 1st 2008. It is a place dedicated to connecting people with nature and it certainly succeeds as far as I am concerned. It is twinned with Circle B Bar Reserve and together they are overseen by the Polk County and Environmental Land Programme.
The trails are opened every day during daylight hours which is terrific for the enthusiastic photographers who arrive at dawn with their long lenses, tripods and scopes. I usually arrived when they were departing with the small digital camera which fits easily into my pocket and I am sure I had an equally marvellous time because I found the whole place breathtaking in its beauty.
The actual Discovery Centre, which houses a small library, exhibits and classrooms with Restrooms and a soft drinks machine is only opened 9am – 4pm and at the time of writing closes on a Monday.
The centre is located off Winter Lake Road on Highway 540. I took the I4 up to junction 41 onto the Polk Parkway Toll Road. I left the toll road at Junction 14, which is where the landfill site is situated, so you get in the mood for your birding experience as you are surrounded by the aerial acrobatics of the many birds that soar and swoop over the landfill. Make sure you turn right off the exiting slip road and then take a left with Winter Lake Road opposite the landfill entrance. If you are not careful you will end up back on the Parkway. (I speak from experience)
At this stage you are less than a mile from the entrance. Before you reach it you may notice a number of Osprey nests on the poles at the side of the road. It is marked by a brown sign on the right hand side of the road. It says Circle B Bar reserve and the entrance is on your left hand side almost straight away. Follow the road through those wonderful Spanish moss covered trees for approx 600 yards to park at the centre.
There is no café, no children’s play area, no boat ramp but there are picnic tables and miles of nature trails which you are allowed to walk or cycle. There is so much to these trails that I have written about them in other articles in order to do justice to the wonderful habitats and their inhabitants.
Although commercialism is kept to a minimum and there is no charge to enter the park, they do operate a small tram trail 2 or 3 days each week. This way anyone who is unable to walk the trails gets the opportunity to see some of the marshlands and wetlands from the comfort of the small tram. These rides are free and book up very quickly so if you feel this would be useful to a family member make sure you book at the beginning of the month when dates are released or you will be too late. They hold classes sometimes in one of their 2 indoor rooms or their outdoor classroom and have monthly talks on photography , birding and native plants and animals.
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