Hunting Island State Park, a Paradise in our Own Backyard
By Wendy Pollitzer
featured in The Island News
April 7, 2011
Interpretive Program Manager, Mitchell Helms
Some of you may know I used to be the former Interpretive Program Manager, more commonly known as the Naturalist, at Hunting Island State Park. Recently, I visited the park and the Nature Center and reminisced about all of the exciting activities for kids and adults. Mitchell Helms is the current Interpretive Program Manager, and he and his staff are enthusiastic about bringing a lot of exciting programs to the Nature Center this Spring and Summer. Additionally, he and his staff have recently renovated the Nature Center in an effort to attract locals and tourists alike. Jennifer Milbert, a Program Specialist at Hunting Island, just completed a Loggerhead Sea Turtle skeleton that hangs from the ceiling, definitely an attraction that intrigues the curious mind.
Many Beaufortonians don’t even know what an incredible Nature Center we have, located only a short distance away on Highway 21 at the southern tip of Hunting Island at the foot of the fishing pier. It is filled with exhibits that highlight the four ecosystems that make up typical barrier islands: the Salt Marsh, the Maritime Forest, the Sand Dunes and the Beach. The Nature Center is also home to many live animals on display.
The month of April is full of exciting programs for people of all ages. And, while the Nature Center is busy with consistent foot traffic, the staff is quite busy this time of year with school field trips. Helms leads the Discover Carolina Program, which teaches South Carolina science standards to 3rd, 5th and 7th graders.
In May, Helms oversees the Loggerhead Sea Turtle Conservation Project, which is administered by The Friends of Hunting Island from May 15 (typically the beginning of hatching season) until October (usually when the last nest hatches).
Helms encourages people to call 838-7437 and ask for Amanda Wood, a Program Specialist at Hunting Island, to get on the Nature Center’s email list. She sends out monthly calendars highlighting extraordinary opportunities at the State Park. You may also visit www.southcarolinaparks.com for dates and times of programs.
An exciting event happening at the end of this month is the 2011 Earth Day Spring Beach Sweep on Saturday, April 30. Meet at the Lighthouse Picnic Area at 10am to register. For more information about Beach Sweep or the Loggerhead Project, please visit www.friendsofhuntingisland.org.
There is so much to do at our State Park. Visitors can enjoy the beach, climb the Lighthouse, kayak in the lagoon, pitch tents in the beachfront campground, attend one of the many programs at the Nature Center, walk out on the marsh boardwalk for a Lowcountry sunset, fish off of the pier, hike the newly-improved trails or just relax in what I like to call…my maritime heaven.
Don’t forget about the Nature Center this summer! It is packed with fun, and it is definitely worth the short drive.