Paul Adamczyk drove his daughter at 4:30 a.m. to her workplace in Palatka on Saturday, just so he could make it in time for “Nature Day” at Little Orange Nature Creek and Preserve.
Adamczyk, 47, lives in Johnson, Florida, about 30 minutes away from the creek in Hawthorne, and joined his wife Sarah and the rest of their family for a wildlife walk.
While others learned which plants could be used to cure colds, be used in soups or become essential oils, Adamczyk, a strategic account manager at a computer storage company, watched as another daughter, Grace, 8, son Paul, 6, and twins Grant and Jacob, 4, played by the creek.
“You better not fall in there, or else I’ll have to come in after you,” he hollered at the twins.
The nature preserve and creek, which cover about 3,000 acres and are home to thousands of plants, initially opened in February 2017.
However, the bridge and the road leading to the creek’s entrance on Southeast Hawthorne Road had been closed for a while, until six months ago, because of construction on State Road 20, said Tom Kay, the executive director of Alachua Conservation Trust.
Hawthorne City Manager Ellen Vause said Nature Day was sponsored by the city, trust, and Friends of Little Orange Creek as a way to reintroduce the creek and preserve to the public.
“This gives people a new opportunity to explore the park and really enjoy everything we have to offer here,” Kay said. “It’s a great corridor here between the preserve and the park.”
Activities included wildlife walks, tree plantings, bounce houses, a 5K race – and education conservationist Michael Adams, of St. Augustine, doing an impersonation of William Bartram, the Revolutionary War-era naturalist.
Susan Marynowski, 59, of Gainesville, a professional herbalist, led about 20 people, including the Adamczyks, on a wildlife walk.
“If you’re going to remember any of the plants from today, the one I want you to remember is the white daisy – it’s completely edible and best wild edible green,” Marynowski said.
Her children didn’t seem interested in learning about the plants, but Sarah Adamczyk, 36, was happy to just have them out and about in nature.
“It’s nice to have something where they can just get out and not be on their electronics,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we live in the woods three miles away from here.”
Ellie Sprick, 21, a third-year natural resource conservation major at the University of Florida, said it was nice to see a multi-generational crowd experience and learn about nature.
“I like Little Orange Creek, because I know about them through their environmental program,” which works to educate fourth graders about nature and conservation, Sprick said.
Aviana Poole, 20, a second-year business management major at UF, said Nature Day proved to be a really good way to destress from her pending end-of-semester exams.
“It’s important that we don’t lose our touch with nature, even though we are moving into a world dominated with technology,” Poole said. “It’s vital that we take care of the earth.”