One of the best parts about living in Northeast Florida is being able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. From the beach to the river, there is something for everyone. For B&C clients Mike and Sharon Koppenhafer, it wasn’t enough to just enjoy the nature around them – they wanted to work to preserve it as well. Living by the Guana Reserve meant that they didn’t have to look far to get involved.
The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) “covers 74,000 acres of coastal lands in northeast Florida from Ponte Vedra Beach to Palm Coast” and is “one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves around the country that focuses on research, education, and stewardship.” The reserve includes an Environmental Educational Center, an amphitheater that overlooks the Guana River Aquatic Preserve, hiking trails and more.
Mike became a member of the Friends of the GTM Research Reserve in 2010 and served on the board for six years. The Friends board supports the efforts of the GTM Research Reserve, plans events for members, raises awareness of the reserve in the community and applies for special grants that benefit the reserve. The Friends board also raises money that provides special programs and additional funding that government funds can’t cover.
The Friends of the GTM Research Reserve hosts several events throughout the year, including walks and runs on the reserve’s trails, kayak tours, sea turtle monitoring, and more. One of Mike’s favorite events is the annual OceanWise fundraiser, where guests enjoy a silent auction, music, educational talks about the reserve and local wildlife, and a delicious, sustainable dinner from nearby restaurants.
Mike’s favorite part about being involved with the GTM Research Reserve is giving his time to a group that exists to benefit the community as a whole. He encourages everyone to visit the reserve and spend time at the education center. The education center hosts displays that show the wildlife and different aquatic systems in Northeast Florida and is recommended for both children and adults. Mike also enjoys spending time on the trails and seeing what the area was like before it was discovered by Ponce de Leon.
With over 200,000 visitors annually, the GTM Research Reserve is an invaluable resource to the First Coast and its residents. This past October, Hurricane Matthew caused some damage to the trails, beach boardwalks and other structures, but there is still plenty to do at the reserve. If you are looking to spend some time in nature while learning more about the wildlife in Northeast Florida, the GTM Research Reserve is the perfect place to go.
Are you interested in learning more about or getting involved with the GTM Research Reserve? Visit www.gtmnerr.org for more information.
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