Timucuan Parks Foundation and Timucuan Preserve introduced over 300 kids and their families to wilderness parks in 2023

Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF) is pleased to report more than 300 children and their families were introduced to Jacksonville’s wilderness parks and preserves in 2023 through their participation in the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Angler fishing clinics. The clinics were made possible by a grant from the National Parks Foundation to introduce outdoor opportunities and healthy recreation to underserved youth in our community. The Junior Ranger Angler fishing clinics were a collaborative effort between TPF, the National Park Service’s Timucuan Preserve, and the City of Jacksonville’s JaxParks.

TPF and Timucuan Preserve hosted a number of Junior Ranger Angler fishing clinics throughout the city, including as part of the 7 Creeks Fest at Betz-Tiger Point Preserve and the Talbot Tidewater Celebration at Fort George Island Cultural State Park, as well as at Dutton Island Preserve, Sheffield Regional Park, and Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Blue Star Families of Jacksonville, children and teens from SP Livingston Boys and Girls Club, Groundwork Jacksonville Green Team Youth Corps, Foundation Academy, Men of Valor, LISC Jacksonville, and a Gullah Geechee community homeschool group were among the participants.

“A key priority for Timucuan Parks Foundation and our park partners is to make Jacksonville’s wilderness parks more relevant and our programming more inclusive,” said Felicia Boyd, program and outreach coordinator for TPF. “These Junior Ranger Angler ethical angling fishing clinics have proven to be successful in providing access and healthy recreation to kids and their families. Last year, we were able to strengthen existing partnerships with community groups and create new partnerships with groups that work specifically with underserved and underrepresented youth. We wouldn’t have been able to reach such a diverse audience without the support of the NPF grant.”

Each event is designed to expand public learning opportunities for youth participants and their families, particularly from diverse communities in and around the city. The main objective of the clinics is to teach youth the basics of catch and release fishing, including knot tying, baiting, rod casting, catch retrieval, hook removal, and safe release, while also promoting awareness of and appreciation for the ecology of Jacksonville’s parks and preserves and surrounding waters. A special feature of the clinics is the multi-cultural history component that includes a fishing heritage lesson focusing on the traditional lifeways of African Americans (Gullah Geechee) led in partnership with the Cosmo Historical Preservation Corporation. Each fishing clinic also incorporates the use of the “Junior Ranger Lets go Fishing!” Activity Booklet and badge for the youth participants.

Both the youth and families thoroughly enjoyed the fishing clinics as evidenced by the responses TPF received. Here are just a few of those:

  • “Everything about this… [JRA fishing] program was amazing! I feel so lucky that we could offer it. Our families all said this was awesome and when is the next one? Thanks to everyone that made this happen!” – Wendy Layton, Chapter Director, Blue Star Families, Jacksonville Office
  • “The boys had a terrific time fishing, kayaking and learning from the different vendors… [at the Talbot Tidewater Celebration] on Saturday! I appreciate …[TIMU} and TPF helping make that possible.” Kristopher Smith, Community Development Officer, LISC Jacksonville
  • ” It was very exciting. I loved how many times I got to try and catch a fish. Even if you didn’t catch one. The experience was amazing.” – Ariel M., youth (and Gullah Geechee descendant)
  • “This was an unforgettable experience. I loved being able to share this experience with others. Living vicariously through them as they had many firsts. First time fishing, canoeing, seeing crabs and more. The history shared from our Gullah Geechee family was also very enlightening. Being outdoors again surrounded by positive energy made me feel right at home.” – Anastatia K., parent (and Gullah Geechee descendant)
  • “Just wanted to shoot you a message to let you know how grateful my daughter and I were for the opportunity to go out to the park this past Saturday. We had such a wonderful time at the Junior Ranger Angler fishing clinic [at the 7 Creeks Fest]! Every single volunteer at the clinic was absolutely wonderful – even with no prior fishing experience, my kiddo left feeling so confident and grinning ear to ear.” – Natalie L, parent
  • “I could have stayed there forever.” – Marina, youth

Several Junior Ranger fishing clinics are being planned for 2024, including one scheduled for March 9, 2024, as part of the 7 Creeks Fest, an annual event to celebrate and explore the 7 Creeks Recreation Area. More details about the event can be found at 7CreeksFest.org. If you are interested in supporting this outreach either through participating, volunteering, or donating, please contact TPF at [email protected].