Island EarthDays logo provided by FRIENDS OF THE ISLAND PARKS
DUNEDIN – Pinellas is home to a number of the world’s most beautiful beaches, including two islands that are part of the Florida State Park System.
Each year, Friends of the Island Parks Inc. hosts Island EarthDays, an event that serves to celebrate the county’s scenic beauty and natural resources while generating funds – and public awareness – in support of these destinations.
Friends of the Island Parks Inc. will present Island EarthDays 2014 Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13, at Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd.
Festival hours will be Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free with paid admission to the park. Park admission is $8 a vehicle with an eight-person limit per vehicle. For event information, visit www.islandearthdays.com
Attendees can check out nature exhibits and wander around the many eco-friendly arts and crafts booths. There also will be guided nature trail walks through the island along with the new limitless playground and – for the adventurous – bungee jumping and rock wall climbing.
Island EarthDays will include a children’s area with face-painting, lots of craft projects for kids, and live animals in the Osprey Village area. Both days will feature live entertainment.
Festivalgoers will find plenty of food and beverage vendors and beer and wine will be available for purchase with proper identification.
Tickets will be on sale both days for several valuable prizes with drawings on Sunday afternoon. Participants need not be present to win.
Situated near the northern end of Florida’s Gulf Coast barrier island chain, Honeymoon Island State Park boasts four miles of white sandy beaches. The Osprey Trail meanders through scenic pine Flatwoods. The island is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including shorebirds, gopher tortoises, ospreys, raccoons and diamondback rattlesnakes. Seasonal visitors, such as the great horned owl, nest at the park in late winter.
Regular visitors to the 2,810-acre park spend time fishing for trout, redfish, pompano and shark; walking along nature trails through pine and mangrove forests; canoeing or kayaking in St. Joseph Sound; swimming, surfing and sunbathing on the beach; learning about the park’s history and wildlife at the Rotary Centennial Nature Center, or just enjoying the outdoors with a picnic.
Nearby Caladesi Island State Park is often included in rankings of the world’s best beaches. In February, Caladesi ranked No. 12 on the list of best U.S. beaches as part of TripAdvisor’s 2013 Traveler’s Choice awards.
The annual event provides Friends of the Island Parks an opportunity to welcome new visitors to Honeymoon Island State Park – and bringing new visitors to the area benefits the local economy.
Honeymoon Island was the most visited park in the state in 2010 with more than 1 million visitors. In 2011, the park topped the list again, recording 1,089,588 visitors. In fact, this was the sixth year in a row Honeymoon Island State Park welcomed more visitors than any other state park.
Combined, Honeymoon and Caladesi have had a direct economic impact on the local area of an estimated $71 million a year in recent years, according to the Friends of the Island Parks. This was assessed in terms of jobs, goods and services and accommodations.