The 40-acre park Natural Habitat Park at SPC’s Seminole Campus will serve as one of two public landscape locations for the Florida Native Plant Society Pinellas Chapter’s eighth annual Tour of Native Landscapes on Saturday, Sept. 27.
The self-guided tour, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will involve a total of six sites throughout Pinellas County. Participants are given maps and information about each site and they can visit them on their own based on their schedule during the day.
Candace “Candy” Arnold, President of the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, said that restorative efforts were part of the reason why the organization selected SPC’s Natural Habitat Park as one of the locations for the tour.
“One of the reasons is that our mission is the restoration of native plants and native plant communities,” Arnold said. “The habitat is just absolutely gorgeous.”
In 2010, the Natural Habitat Park opened after undergoing a restoration, removing exotic and non-native vegetation to better highlight the natural plant life.
“We thought this would be a great opportunity for our members to see what great restoration can look like,” she said. “If you see some of the pictures from before when they were removing some of the exotic plants, it was thick with exotics. Now it’s filled with beautiful native vegetation.”
Maura Scanlon, Assistant Professor of Biology in Environmental Science Technology at the Seminole Campus, said the habitat also serves as green space for relaxing and as an outdoor classroom for field studies.
“It is ideal as it highlights not only the beauty of native plants and animals, but also how impacted urban land can become ecologically functional again through wetland restoration,” Scanlon said.
While the habitat has not been featured on the landscape tour in prior years, members of the Florida Native Plant Society have served as speakers for students in the Associate in Science Environmental Technology program and Seminole Environmental Club at the Seminole Campus.
The Natural Habitat Park is teeming with life – including more than 250 species of birds, dragonflies, reptiles and native plants. The park features a 200-yard-long boardwalk with 12 viewing stations, a 50-seat teaching pavilion, a floating dock and a butterfly and sculpture garden.
Students from the SPC Seminole Environmental Club will provide assistance to visitors and answer questions during the tour.
“Having the park be a stop on the tour provides an opportunity for the public to learn more about SPC, our programs, and this great resource,” Scanlon said.