While the Charleston area gets tons of national press for its history, architecture, restaurants, warm weather and hospitality, one of its less appreciated assets is its vast expanse of green and blue open space to its north and east.
As the greater Charleston area’s growth chews up more natural areas, the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, in all, encompassing about 315,000 acres, offers a barrier to sprawling madness.
Within it is Hampton Plantation State Park, Santee Coastal Reserve, The Center for Birds of Prey, The East Cooper Land Trust’s Thornhill Farms and its hub, the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center, among others resources.
The forest and refuge serve not only a place for wildlife to live but as a place for people to recreate and for public and private organizations to provide services and jobs.
Patricia Midgett, visitor services manager of Cape Romain, contacted me during the chill of mid-winter to tell me about a special opportunity for the community to celebrate our natural treasure this Saturday.
Even though the Bulls Bay Nature Festival is in its third year, I hadn’t heard of it and was blown away by the array of activities offered — all for free — on Saturday.
Midgett says the festival has been an event that has pulled the communities of Awendaw, McClellanville and parts of Mount Pleasant together. Nearly all are pitching in some way.
“The festival is not just a celebration of nature but of community,” she says. “There is so much here. It’s all here: wildlife organizations, outfitters, conservation groups, towns, musicians, craftsmen, schools and churches.”
Festival partners include the Avian Conservation Center, Awendaw Green, Bishop Jerden Conference Center, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Expeditions, Francis Marion National Forest, Friends of Coastal South Carolina, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, Nature Adventures Outfitters, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Forestry Commission, Sewee to Santee Community Development Corporation, Sewee Outpost, town of Awendaw and the town of McClellanville.
Some of the 35 activities include paddling and biking trips, nature and bird walks, bird banding, beekeeping, edible plant walks, a boat tour of the refuge, history talks, nature photography and sweetgrass basketmaking workshops, and programs on red wolves, reptiles and raptors. Registration is necessary for most activities.
Many of the programs will be geared toward youth, including archery, fishing, ecology and art. Creative activities for youngsters ages 6 and younger include making red wolf masks, turtle hats, animal tracks, fish art and face painting, held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. mostly at the Sewee center.
The student winners of the festival’s Wildlife Art Contest will be recognized on the music stage at 11:45 a.m. and artwork will be displayed at the Sewee center lobby.
While many of the events will be held at, or depart from, the Sewee Center in Awendaw, the festival will literally be spread through the forests, islands and waterways of the area.
The one event to draw everyone together at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Sewee center will be the festival’s keynote speech, “Lowcountry Botanical Potpourri,” by renowned field biologist Richard Porcher, a former professor at The Citadel and author of “Wildflowers of the Carolina Lowcountry and the Lower Pee Dee.”
www.bullsbaynaturefestival.org or <URL destination="www.facebook.com/bullsbaynaturefestival Bio-Blitz ">www.facebook.com/bullsbaynaturefestival
Meanwhile, on a much smaller scale on the other side of the metro area near St. George, the Charleston Natural History Society (the local Audubon Society) will host a “Bio-Blitz” starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and continuing until 5 p.m. Sunday at McAlhany Nature Preserve, a 367-acre preserve with a variety of ecosystems, including bottomland hardwoods, upland wetlands, pine and hardwood forests and a non-alluvial swamp.
The purpose of the Bio-Blitz is to document the biodiversity of McAlhany and to provide a comprehensive flora and fauna species list.
Those interested should RSVP to Brian Reid at email@example.com with the number of people who will be attending, to help organizers prepare the right amount of food and to give them an idea what type of biodiversity attendees are comfortable inventorying (e.g. birds, terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, aquatic insects, butterflies, moths, reptiles and amphibians.
Friday is National Bike to Work Day and it will be celebrated locally with a police-escorted ride over the Legare Bridge. Participants can start gathering at 8:15 a.m. in the parking lot near Earth Fare in South Windermere Shopping Center, 74 Folly Road. The ride will depart at 8:45 a.m.
Baseball fans who also enjoy running have their day on the field Saturday afternoon at Joe Riley Park for the Charleston RiverDogs’ 12th annual Run Forrest Run 5K, presented by Fleet Feet Sports in Mount Pleasant.
The run, set for 4 p.m., is held before the RiverDogs’ game against the Greenville Drive and features a finish line at home plate. The event, held rain-or-shine, benefits the MUSC Storm Eye Institute and its fight to cure retinitis pigmentosa and other blinding diseases.
“This race is fun for all ages and caters to every type of participant,” says Melissa Azevedo, vice president of special events for the RiverDogs. “Our 5K race begins in front of ‘The Joe’ and finishes at home plate where runners are greeted by RiverDogs players and coaches.”
Late registration is $35 and includes a race packet, T-shirt (while supplies last), one ticket to the game (which starts at 6:05 p.m.), an awards ceremony and a post-race party with dinner. Additional game tickets are $8 each and can be purchased online with your race registration or at packet pick-up.
In-person and packet pick-up will be noon to 6 p.m. Friday at Fleet Feet Sports in Mount Pleasant and 2-3:45 p.m. Saturday at Riley stadium.
On Wednesday, cyclists in hundreds of locations around the world will participate in the annual Ride of Silence, a silent, slow-paced ride in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.
Events in North America will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Join hundreds of people on bicycles for Charleston’s version of this global event. The Ride of Silence will have a police escort.
Charleston’s version will be depart from Hampton Park at 7 p.m. and take about an hour with a post-ride party at Bike Law’s headquarters at 57 Cannon Street.