By Brittany Llorente
MELBOURNE BEACH - The Barrier Island Center usually attracts turtles to its beaches this time of year, but on May 12, the center will attract friends and families to celebrate its fourth year in the Archie Carr Refuge.
During the mid-day celebration, the center has planned activities for the young and the young at heart, including kayaking expeditions, seining and arts and crafts.
"This celebration is really close to me," said the sanctuary steward of the Barrier Island Center, Heidi Grooms.
"I have a 5-year-old son and family events like this are perfect for getting the kids outside and learning about new things and things they wouldn't normally encounter."
Which is where the Florida Wildlife Hospital comes in, displaying its rescue owls and gopher tortoise, and the Erna Nixon Park Exhibitors, presenting a variety of reptiles.
"This is sort of like our birthday," Ms. Grooms said.
And what birthday wouldn't be complete with food, drinks and music.
The center sits in the middle of the 20-mile stretch of beach that is home to thousands of sea turtle nests, including the leatherback, loggerhead and green turtle.
"From March through October, we will have turtle nesting," Ms. Grooms said.
"Last year there were more than 19,000 nests and all three species of turtles. In the 10 miles in either direction is the most heavily utilized beach in the eastern hemisphere."
In the interest of knowledge, information and gathering people together for a good time, there is an underlying hope.
"People need to ensure the safety of the sea turtles, but for the next generation to be able to protect and preserve them as well," Ms. Grooms said.
The Environmental Learning Center, HUBBS Sea World Institute, representatives from the Archie Carr refuge, rangers from the Sebastian Inlet State Park, representatives from the St. John's River Management, as well as the Brevard Zoo will have information for toddlers to seniors on conservation and preservation.
The day will also include two hikes; a butterfly hike and a sanctuary plant hike.
"There is a little something for everyone," Ms. Grooms said. "I hope that everyone will come away from the celebration with an inspirational idea, to preserve wildlife and sea life."
The "Once Upon a Barrier Island" Celebration, is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free.
For more information, call (321) 723-3556 or visit barrierislandcenter.com.