Ranger interpretations help visitors
HOMESTEAD, Fla.— With helpful park rangers to enhance the experience, Biscayne National Park offers unique opportunities to learn about the majestic beauty and diverse resources that surround you.
Biscayne National Park is unique in being the only national park that is 95 percent under water which makes it the ideal place to explore by boat or canoe. With 173,000 acres covered in water, it is the largest marine park in the national parks system and can be a fun and exciting place to learn about nature.
|A Biscayne National Park ranger assists a visitor at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center (Staff photos).
“If visitors do not have a boat of their own they can take part in an interpretive tour. All the interpretive programs exist to help explain what is seen in the park, and to educate visitors about nature,” said Bob Showler, supervisor in the park’s Interpretive Division.
Interpretation also includes the brochures, signs and field information posted throughout the park to help educate the visitors, but has now come to include features on the internet and a growing array of interpretive programs.
The interpretive programs feature trips that are staffed by park rangers who narrate the various aspects of the journey such as the history of the park and coral reef.
“I visited the park two years ago and still remember how beautiful it was. Although it is not that far from Miami it feels like you’re in a different country because of how calm and natural it was,” said 21-year-old Alex Mirambell.
The programs are offered in the park to help visitors decipher what they see and to add to the different forms of entertainment found throughout the park.
Some popular interpretive programs include canoe tours, boat trips, ranger talks, lectures, concerts, art exhibits and special events.
“The goal is to get people to better understand and appreciate nature. Our mission is to enjoy the area while preserving it in its most natural state,” said Showler.
Activities include daily glass bottom boat rides that are accompanied by rangers who explain the significance of what is seen, and the daily Ranger’s Choice Program that features walks and information on the wildlife and history of the park.
“The glass bottom boat ride was a lot of fun by itself but it was great to have someone to guide us so that we knew what was all around us,” said Mirambell.
Rangers also do a short orientation for the daily private snorkeling trips on how to stay safe and protect the surroundings when snorkeling in Biscayne Bay or in the living coral reefs off shore.
“Some people think that interpreters are synonymous with tour guides but I disagree. What makes a visitors experience enjoyable is that the interpretation gives them a memorable story about the significance of a natural park and makes it relevant to the individual,” said Gary Bremen, a park ranger at Biscayne since 1989.
|The Dante Fascell Visitor Center includes a variety of different exhibits, guided walks with rangers, coral reef boat tours, island and bay tours, and other interpretive activities for visitors.
The programs are prepared and researched by the rangers who run them, but activities may vary from event to event in order to keep updated for repeat visitors.
Art exhibits in the Visitor’s Center gallery show work from contemporary artists who increase awareness of the importance of nature.
Discovery Series Lectures are given the third Wednesday of every month and explain subjects such as where the bay fits into the eco-system.
“It’s great to see the kids and families participating in the activities because they get to learn about the important value of wildlife and preserving nature,” said Showler.
Family Fun Fest is held on the first Sunday of every month from January to May. It features themed hands-on entertainment for children and families.
“Family Fun Fest is geared towards repeat visitors so the activities are always changing. Kids come back year after year to participate,” according to Bremen.
One activity of Family Fun Fest involves children being given passports and getting punches on those passports from each of the twelve themed stations, which then earns them a reward pin.
Another interesting aspect of the park programs is the Student Education Program in which school groups go to the island of Elliott Key accompanied by park rangers. They spend two days camping and learning about natural history.
This includes learning the importance of marine life, netting for animals to be released, trash clean up, night hikes, camp fires, canoeing, snorkeling and preventing park destruction.
“Another great thing for families to do is have their kids participate in our junior ranger program from which children do booklets and activities. Biscayne coordinates those activities with Big Cypress and Everglades National Park,” said Showler.
For more information, those interested in the park can visit the official park web site at http://www.nps.gov/bisc.