Wild Birds Unlimited Clearwater/Safety Harbor’s Partner Profile: The Magic and Memories of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
When Scooter’s writing partner was just a little girl, she’d grab her sister and their friends and head over to what was then known simply to them as, “The Nature Trail”. Located along Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg, Florida… this lovely respite from the hectic streets winding along Florida’s beach-lined coasts offered a magical place to play -unfettered- amid the trees and vines and wild life that made Boyd Hill their home.
Back then, the entrance consisted of 2 large metal turnstiles that would happily give way for the price of a dime. For 10 cents, a wonderful world of floating glassy alligator eyes, slithery snakes, fuzzy squirrels eager and delighted for a handout, and all manner of bird waited to be discovered! The trails which took them deep into the “wilds” meandered along the far side of the lake where, if one was careful enough, American Alligators, then protected by federal law and later removed in 1987, could be seen swimming and stalking just below the surface of the dark, still waters.
Walking along the sandy paths gave opportunity for glimpses of gopher tortoises, lizards, snakes and raccoons. Walking quietly enough, one was fortunate to spy graceful wading birds like herons, snowy egrets, wood storks and white ibis as they crept along the water’s edges. These Boyd Hill residents, still there today, made for a thrilling addition to the running and jumping along those paths so easily enjoyed on a warm, sunny day.
Now, 40 years later, (Scooter’s giving away our age…) Boyd Hill is a sprawling and successful Nature Preserve with 245 natural acres, a raptor aviary and education center. Hosting highly-regarded events such as Raptor Fest, the Blazing Star Festival of the Arts, the Raccoon Run and the annual Boyd Hill Photo Contest which invites Boyd Hill fans to submit photos of their favorite nature-based subjects, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is one of Wild Birds Unlimited Clearwater/Safety Harbor’s most valued partners.
Last year’s Boyd Hill Raptor Fest gave WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor the opportunity to share its many products and services with the St. Petersburg community. Carl, Tracy and the WBU Clearwater family were eager and excited to share in the fun of educating the community on the many facets of Florida’s wild bird populations. Taking in injured raptors that cannot be released back into the wild due to their condition, the aviary not only gives them a safe, secure and healthy place to live, but they serve to enlighten the park’s visitors as to the needs and conditions faced by Florida’s wild birds of prey.
What once began as a small, unassuming zoo and nature trail has grown into an esteemed nature center and preserve regarded by avian experts and educators from all over the country. Respected for its efforts at protecting Florida’s fragile ecosystem and valued as an educational resource dedicated to the care and preservation of Florida’s raptor population, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve still offers the respite it provided so long ago… but now, with a bit more “oomph”!
From the imposing turnstiles where we offered our small dimes to enter… to its vines on which we glided across gullied forest floors, to the gators whose eyes watched us from cautious, murky distances, and the snakes who gave us startled surprises… Boyd Hill provided wondrous memories and helped to serve as an education in the dwindling art of unfettered, unafraid play among natural and unbroken areas. Along those newer, more defined paths… it still lives there; the laughter, the joy, the suspense of seeing something new and natural and exciting just around a corner or peering from behind a tree or soaring overhead.
Do you have memories of the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve? Share your experiences with us! We’d love to hear them!