Friday, January 23, 2009

Anne Kolb Habitat

Anne Kolb Nature Center
Hollywood, Florida
January 15, 2009

Last week we visited Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood, Florida, . This beautiful little spot sits at the eastern end of Sheridan street - with the Intracoastal Waterway on one side and West Lake on the other. West Lake is not a true lake, it is a leftover of dredging done in the early 1900's by Robert Young. Mr. Young was the founder of Hollywood. He built Hollywood Boulevard and Sheridan Street by dredging and filling. The mangroves were cut down and the limestone bedrock was blown up and dug out. The dirt that was dredged out became the fill for the road - it needed to be filled because it was mostly wetland. The hole that was made became the "lake". There are two other "lakes" further south - North Lake and South Lake - and they border Hollywood Boulevard.

The West Lake area was never developed and was acquired by Broward county in the 1970's due to the brave activism of a woman named Anne Kolb. Thanks to Ms. Kolb we now have one of the largest tracts of mangroves left in the area. In her honor, the county built an excellent, interactive nature center dedicated to its protector, with wonderful boardwalks meandering through several different areas of the mangroves surrounding it.

As a class we went off the beaten path a bit. I led our naturalists along one of the shorter boardwalks - The Mud Flat trail. While walking the kids were able to lick salt popsicles (the underside of the Black Mangrove leaf), observe the walking trees (the Red Mangrove and its "walking" roots), listen to the sound of the shrimps popping, and see the Mangrove Tree Crabs crawling. We tried to stand as still as possible to see if the fiddler crabs would come out of there holes, but the crabs were too smart and didn't want to face our big group. Our main lesson this morning was the idea of a habitat - learning who and what lived in that area and how they survived.

From there, the morning class went into the woods and the afternoon class went to the lake. The woods that the morning class went to were the Australian Pines. Australian Pines are an invasive, exotic tree that are slowly being erradicated all over south Florida. They were brought over, along with the Melaluca, to help drain water. They are from a drought ridden area in Australia and love water. However, they go crazy here in south Florida because there is SO much water. They grow and grow and grow and take over native flora and push out wildlife. HOWEVER, the kids love them - they provide a wonderful shady, wooded area that is so unusual here, and they can be broken easily to build into forts. There is something special about going into a forest with trees over your head and the children felt it immediately. They ran wild. While there in the cover of the trees, we attempted to do a Habitat Lap Sit - to see how everything needs to work together in order to accomplish a goal. Our kids are so many different sizes that it was very hard to do - which, I guess, was the point.

After passing through the very small grove of trees, we crossed the street over to the paved walking trail. This trail leads you southward, under Sheridan street along the Intracoastal Waterway. Once you get to the south side of Sheridan street the trail becomes a dirt trail and is really quite "out there". You feel like you are far away from the rest of the city. We entered the intricate mangrove waterways that are home to manatees, american crocodiles (s. Florida is the only place in N. America where crocodiles live), and many fish and crabs, osprey, hawks, the list goes on. If you ever want to get away while staying nearby, this is the place to go.

Our class spent the rest of the time throwing rocks into the intracoastal, trying to catch nonexistent fish with the nets and exploring in the mangroves along the edge. I'm always in awe of the amount of time children (and adults) can spend throwing rocks into water - it's such a satisfying game. We also tested the water. I wanted them to test the saltiness. We gathered some water in a tub and placed a raw egg in the tub of water to see if it would float. If it floats, the water is quite salty - the salt takes up more space causing the egg to float. Sometimes I like to be an egg in the ocean on a warm, still Florida day. The water from the intracoastal was not salty enough, and neither was the water in the mangroves. There is freshwater flow entering these waters from the west (Everglades and rivers), plus rainwater. The freshwater meets the salty water of the Atlantic and becomes brackish. If you read a past post - from John U. Lloyd, you'll see that we also tried this with the ocean water - which surprisingly wasn't salty enough either.

Now, my later class - which was mostly little fellows, went a different route. We continued on down the Mud Flat trail to its end. Along the way we sang the "Habitat" song, which was a hit, and licked salt off the leaves. At the edge of the lake we sat and enjoyed the flight of an Osprey looking for a fish for its lunch. Once back by the nature center, we went down to the mud flat and played in the water. We almost lost our shoes in the muck (muck is created by the decomposed leaves of the mangroves), got our pants wet, and tested the water. Guess what? It wasn't salty enough to float an egg! Besides throwing rocks into water and building forts, you can't beat playing in the water and the mud!

1 comment:

  1. HI Christie! Great site and I am happy to share. Email me at; Hollywood recently published a small booklet for John Williams Park that I designed that you are welcome to use for field trips. It is the differences between native and non-native plants. I am so glad that you are doing Environmental Ed!


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