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Interpretive trail project to offer two miles of hiking for nature lovers

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
The proposed course of the interpretive nature trail is under construction now. When complete, the two-mile trail will feature bridges, raised boardwalks and informational signs along the way.

If all goes according to plan, nature lovers won't have to go far to get an up close and personal look at the wilds of MacDill.

Work already has started on an interpretive nature trail that when complete, will wind for two miles along a path at the south end of the base, running through thickly wooded areas, out to the beach and back again. The project is being headed up by the environmental division of the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron, with CE staffers Dan Arrendale and Jason Kirkpatrick taking the lead.

Clearing some paths at the southeast corner of the base has already been done for the first phase of the project, expected to cost $40,000 when finished. The money will be used to clear the path, post signs and construct bridges and boardwalks to cross small creeks as well as sensitive wetlands, said Mr. Kirkpartick.

The trail will be blazed with marks on trees; and some 20 informational signs describing the scene, wildlife and foliage will be placed along the trail. It will start at Lewis Lake, go south to the Fam Camp, wind its way east across the golf course and run along the beach on the south and east side of the base. Mr. Kirkpatrick said there is much to see along the proposed route, which he has toured many times.

"You see all sorts of things," he notes. "There are raccoons, many types of birds, plants, trees and down by the beach you can see dolphins in the bay and other sea life; and in one tree there is a bee hive that's been there for years. It's very interesting."

He cautioned that seeing rattlesnakes is not unusual, so warning signs will be posted for those using the trail. There are two drawbacks to the trail, he said, but at this point he says they are unavoidable. First, hikers will have to cross the golf course at one point. Also, due to the nature of the terrain and available land, the trail cannot loop in a circle. Those reaching the end will have no alternative but to backtrack and return down the same path.

"That's not the way I would like to do it, but unless we can come up with some kind of alternative, that's the way it will have to be," said Mr. Kirkpatrick, who added the plan remains a work in progress and could change somewhat.

If the project turns out like he hopes, he notes the trail might be worth seeing from both directions.

"Dan Arrendale has done a great job on this project and it going to be great for people who like nature and being outdoors," he said. Environmental permits must be approved by the state, but Mr. Kirkpatrick believes the project will be completed this year.




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