ANERR can help break cabin fever
Although the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center is closed, there are still plenty of places the public can access to get outside and enjoy nature, while practicing social distancing and other CDC-recommended guidelines for COVID-19.
Remote-access trails, a park, coastal- and uplands-access points, boardwalks, and a small, undeveloped island to explore are among such getaways at ANERR, which encompasses 246,766 acres of public lands and waters in the Panhandle.
The reserve boundaries include 52 miles of the lower Apalachicola River and its associated floodplain, most of Apalachicola Bay, two barrier islands, part of a third and several small out-parcels.
Millender Park and Beach, just behind and across Millender Street from the ANERR Nature Center, offers visitors covered picnic pavilions, access to the beach by foot, and even a canoe/kayak launch at the end of Millender Street. Park visitors can also see the new living shoreline installation along the Cat Point oyster reef where more than 70,000 spartina plants have been planted since the beginning of the year to restore the salt marsh habitat. Millender Park has its own parking area.
Scipio Creek Boardwalk and Overlook in Apalachicola is a short quarter-mile nature trail out to a deck overlooking the Apalachicola River. Located at ANERR’s former headquarters at the Mill Pond in Apalachicola, the packed gravel trail and boardwalk runs alongside Scipio Creek through a mosaic of hardwoods and wetlands.
Unit 4 on St. George Island stretches along the bay shore of St. George Sound and is located just east of the center of the island. The property offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing and beach activities. The main entrance at Sixth Street includes a small parking area, bike rack and information kiosk. Visitors may carry kayaks or canoes to the water, although there is no designated launch at this location.
Nick’s Hole in The Plantation, also on St. George Island, consists of about one mile of bayshore and more than 40 acres of pine flatwoods, coastal hammock, rosemary-oak scrub and tidal marsh. The property offers recreational opportunities including kayaking, fishing, hiking, primitive camping, picnicking and wildlife viewing. Nick’s Hole is within the gated community of St. George Plantation, and land access is limited to residents and guests of the Plantation community, however, the public is welcome to access the area by water.
Island of Cape St. George, or Little St. George Island, is separated from St. George Island by Sikes Cut and accessible only by boat. The island offers nine miles of undeveloped beachfront, 2,300 acres of pine flatwoods, rosemary-oak scrub, salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and dune habitat. Visitors who have prepared can enjoy a tremendous recreational opportunities including boating, kayaking, fishing, hiking, primitive camping, wildlife viewing and beach activities. Depending on the time of year and weather, the island can be a challenging environment. Be wary of weather and wildlife, and the island’s remoteness.
At any ANERR property, if you suspect a fish, wildlife, boating or environmental violation, call the Florida Wildlife and Fish Commission’s Wildlife Alert line at 888-404-3922. And, as always, when exploring the Apalachicola Reserve, remember: if you carry it in, carry it out, and practice the Center for Outdoor Ethics’ seven Leave No Trace principles:
•Prepare for your outing; bring sunscreen, insect repellant and plenty of water
•Travel and camp on durable surfaces
•Dispose of your waste properly
•Leave what you find and allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them
•Minimize campfire impacts
•Respect wildlife by observing it from a distance
•Be considerate of others so everyone may enjoy their outdoor experience
For more information about ANERR, check out the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website and ANERR’s Friends of the Reserve website