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When is the last time you spent time outside? I mean really got out to enjoy nature (posing in wildflowers on the side of the highway does not count). As you scroll through social media are you envious of those catalog-style (often color coordinated) photos of families spending time together outdoors? Do you think to yourself “How do they find the time to do that?” There are a million reasons why you are too busy to plan an outing: Too tired to go anywhere after work; Too many activities scheduled already; You don’t have the gear to do that; The kids will get bored; You will get bored … the list goes on and on! Well take a moment and consider trying something new. Port A is known for its beautiful beaches but have you considered exploring the Nature Preserves?

There are five City-owned Nature Preserve sites in Port Aransas to help get your social media posts envied. The Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Charlie’s Pasture North and South and the Wetland Park are all FREE to the public and open sunrise to sunset. These are all fantastic places that can help foster a love of nature in your family, your friends or even yourself.
  1. Try something new – Exhausted from a long work week, a never-ending honey-do list, or maybe event too many days on the beach in the waves? Try some quite down time walking the trails of Charlie’s Pasture. There are two entrances to this property. The main entrance is a large pavilion that acts as a trail head to several miles of granite paths and boardwalk to a tower at the end of Port St. There is also a picnic table in the shade and a mile of trails and boardwalk to a tower overlooking the Preserve, accessible from Hwy 361. Both sites are great for meditation, bird watching, art (acoustic music, painting, photography) or a picnic lunch.
  1. Get Active – Skip the gym and take a bike ride. The health benefits of spending time outside are numerous. With 4 miles of trails to explore, running, walking and biking are all great ways to get in some well-deserved self-care. There is a little known third entrance to the Preserve via the Community Park on Ross Ave. A new frisbee golf course surrounds the ball fields, skate park and swimming pool there. A few of the holes will lead you right to the Nature Preserve trail with a fantastic duck pond and gazebo overlook.
  1. Make lasting memories – Sometimes it’s easier to fall in love with something when you know others love it too. Try planning a day to bring family, invite friends, or even meet new people in the Preserve. There are a lot of special interest groups that already spend time in Nature. Members of the Coastal Bend Audubon Society and Texas Master Naturalists often visit the Birding Center, Paradise Pond and Wetland Park for bird watching events. They have members with extra knowledge on what is floating and flying by. Keep Port Aransas Beautiful donated trash cans and recycling bins to the Nature Preserve. They hosts beach clean-ups and plant swaps that encourage members to get outside. The Port Aransas Garden Club is a local group that adopted the flower beds at the Birding Center and help maintain the area. These groups are a great way to meet folks that makes time to meet monthly and take field trips, host guest speakers or hold social events all centered around the outdoors.
  1. Learn new things -  Attend a program or explore on your own. Check out our summer lineup of programs below. We post our activities on our Facebook Page and on the Nature Rocks Coastal Bend Website.

Birding on the Boardwalk - Nan Dietert, expert birder guides tours every Wednesday at 9am at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center on Ross Ave. FREE

Qigong - A moving meditation with Suzanne McCann, moved to a NEW DAY Wednesdays 6-7pm, starting May 31st, at the Pavilion at the Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture. Meet in the Pavilion on Port St. $3/person

Ground Nesting Bird Walk & Talk -  Saturday June 17th at 9am, Meet Kristina Macaulay, a field ornithologist from the American Bird Conservancy and Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program and learn about the ground nesting birds of the Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture. Meet in the Pavilion on Port St. FREE

Paint the Preserve - Saturday, July 8th, 9-10am Marilyn Cook teaches watercolor landscape techniques. All supplies will be provided but feel free to bring your own if you prefer. Space is limited. RVSP by 5pm July 7th, 2017. Meet in the Pavilion on Port St. $10/person.

If you brave the outdoors on your own there are educational signs along the way to help you learn a little more about what you’re seeing. Do you feel like you don’t know what to look for or don’t know what you’re looking at once you find it? There’s an app for that! iNaturalist is an app and website that you can use to take photos of plants or animals, record what you saw, and a scientist will tell you what it is! Use your smartphones to help kids stay engaged. It can also help entice you to come back and make more observations later.

It may take a little extra effort to get started but once you give it a try you are sure to return again and again to discover something new. Fall in love with all that the Port Aransas Nature Preserves have to offer.

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