by SC Reporter Crystal Tisme
The J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has finished a week-long maintenance project at the Bailey Tract located on Tarpon Bay Road. “Ding” Darling Refuge Ranger Toni Westland explains the maintenance was to keep the trail clear for bicyclists and people to walk.
“The trails get worn out with sand, and you start trying to bike them and you’re stuck in the sand. So there was a lot of dumping of crushed shells,” Westland says.
The Bailey Tract is a 100-acre area of wetland that has a mix of trails varying in length. Visitors can bike or walk through and enjoy a beautiful, scenic stroll. Many visitors come searching for the freshwater birds that may be spotted along the trails or even the native plants. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Westland went on to explain that the maintenance team also did a lot of mowing and trimming to widen the path. While the widening of the tract is great for visitors, it also allows visitors to see more wildlife along the path. Though unlikely during this hot season, alligators may be spotted basking along the path.
The Bailey Tract is a great place to bird watch or to take a mindfullness walk.
SC photo by Chuck Larsen
“If people see alligators just like any wild animal, making noise will scare the animal. The best thing to do is keep your distance, and never feed them,” Westland says.
Westland cautions it may be more likely to spot an alligator as the colder weather nears. An important thing to note is alligators or any wildlife in general should never be fed. She says this causes them to change their behavior, meaning they would get comfortable approaching humans.
The clearing of the Bailey Tract also opened up the opportunity for mindfulness walks along the trail. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in where you are, and refuge rangers wanted to incorporate it into nature.
“We are seeing how important nature can be when you’re present in it and doing that. And so we’ve designed this mindfulness trail, it’s at the Bailey Tract, and it’s a third of a mile trail with five different stations,” Westland says.
To take part in the mindfulness experience RSVP on Eventbrite, where there are also other mindfulness activities in which to participate.