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Children take to park, embrace nature (w/video)

By Johnathan Silver -
June 28, 2014 at 1:28 a.m.

Anna Beckendorf, a Master Naturalist, right, gives campers Shayleigh Green, 9, left, of Richmond; Zatavia Hoodye, 12, of Katy, center; and Brooke Eckel, 15, of Katy, a chance to feel some duck weed that she pulled from a trough during a nature walk at Coleto Creek Park on Saturday morning. "They respond with a lots of gratitude and love, and they let you know that," Beckendorf said of the people, especially the children, that she takes on the nature walks. "It's really rewarding."

Sometimes, nature is edible.

That was a fact children on a nature walk relished Saturday morning as they turned grapes on the trail into a handful of quick snacks at Coleto Creek Park.

"It was so yummy," Richmond resident Hayden Gillenwaters, 4, said about the grapes he ate from the trail, adding that he'd like to go back for more. "You squeeze them, and they shot in your mouth."

"Everybody loves the berries," interjected T.J. Regalado, 6, of San Marcos.

The boys were among a group of more than 30 people who participated in a guided walk that took visitors on a trip for about a mile and for about an hour and a half in the park, showcasing wildlife and a variety of plants.

Plenty of plants but few animal encounters characterized Saturday's journey. But depending on the time of day, visitors easily can encounter rare birds, deer, snakes, native rodents, various insects and more in the park. Visitors who walked the trail also expressed excitement about seeing cacti and hearing stories about plants and the durability of oak.

Volunteer Anna Beckendorf and Park Ranger Dan Beckendorf - aka "Ranger Dan" and "Lone Star Ann" - work to promote educational opportunities such as the walk and man-made gardens.

Children's reactions to the nature walk and the wildlife in the park have been "awesome," Dan Beckendorf added.

"It's like you're opening a door for them," he said.

Through the walks and tours, the Beckendorfs not only aim to get people in touch with nature, but they're also looking for people to give back in a way that helps preserve Earth's resources.

During the nature walk, participants encounter a butterfly garden, a lizard habitat and a compost area, all created by Anna Beckendorf and other park volunteers to foster more wildlife in the area and to bring visitors closer to nature. In these habitats, she and volunteers take elements from the animals' natural homes - soil, plants, etc. - and reproduce that setting in another location to draw and keep wildlife.

The habitats are a way of giving back, given mankind's record of displacing wildlife when developing land, she said.

"I'm looking out for Texas' native habitat," she said. "Wildlife is one of our most treasured resources."

Some people who are critical of man-made gardens and beds have said they should not be in the park because they don't occur naturally or because they are an eyesore, Beckendorf said.

Her response: Building habitats is a movement that will win in the end. She cites how it gives back to the ecosystem and how people are starting to make areas in their backyards to recreate and foster habitats for wildlife.

Beckendorf summarizes that people simply have to take care of Earth.

"We have the same mission: to keep the ecosystem healthy," she said. "We either survive, or we have a limited existence."



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