Timucuan Parks Foundation Hosted Special Olympics Youth at the Timucuan Preserve

The teens enjoyed a day of kayaking and exploration

Local athletes with Special Olympics Florida joined Timucuan Parks Foundation for a day of outdoor fun in the Timucuan Preserve. Eleven teens from North Florida School of Special Education participated in kayaking, swimming, and seining. The event marked the partial resumption of outdoor programming for TPF who modified the day’s events to follow the COVID-19 spatial distancing guidelines.

“We were excited this summer to be able to bring this group of young people and their coaches and mentors out to the Timucuan Preserve for an enjoyable day of physical activity and learning outdoors,” said Felicia Boyd, TPF outreach and program director. “We had a number of TPF volunteers, a biologist with city of Jacksonville, and our partners from Kayak Amelia who all helped to create a fun and safe day for the kids.”

Guides from Kayak Amelia led the group from the Alimacani boat ramp across the Ft. George River. The group stopped at a sandy beach in the Timucuan Preserve where they enjoyed some time swimming and seine netting for small fish and jellyfish. They also enjoyed the much-loved chocolate chip cookies that Kayak Amelia provides for its guests.

TPF’s programs are designed to provide education, recreation, and stewardship opportunities to diverse populations of youth who might not otherwise have access to Jacksonville’s national, state, and city preservation park sites. A National Park Service Challenge grant, funding from the National Environmental Education Foundation and REI, plus generous donations from the community allow TPF to host these types of programs. The programs allow youth to engage in healthy outdoor recreation and service-learning projects including kayaking, hiking, watershed cleanups, and park beautification and resiliency projects.

“Our students who participate in Special Olympics activities thrive in large part because of the friendships and team camaraderie they find practicing and training as a group,” said Sally Hazelip, Head of School at North Florida School of Special Education. “This adventure at the Timucuan Preserve enabled our students to experience that same fun and team-building experience in a time that many of their traditional sports practices can’t take place.”