While visiting Linda's brother, Rodney at his residence in Melbourne Beach, we again visited the Barrier Island Sanctuary Management & Education Center, located just 4-5 miles south on Highway A1A.

The 34 acre sanctuary offers visitors an invitation to explore the barrier island's diverse habitats through interactive exhibits at the Center, and along a 1-mile hiking trail that winds from the ocean to the Indian River Lagoon. There is also a winding outdoor deck to observe the Atlantic Ocean and shores.

The highlight of the visit is the Center. Here you can view all sorts of live creature exhibits and view videos of sea turtle research and natural habitat protection. The Barrier Island Sanctuary is home to the Management and Education Center for the Brevard County Environmentally Endangers Lands (EEL) Program's South Beaches Region. The EEL Program was established in 1990 to protect the natural habitats of Brevard County by acquiring environmentally sensitive lands for conservation, passive recreation and environmental education. They have done a splendid job in this regard.

This initiative made conservation history when citizens voted to tax themselves for the acquisition and maintenance of Brevard County's natural areas. We took advantage of the many such areas in just about the ten miles of Melbourne Beach that we hiked and biked.

The Barrier Island Center serves as the primary visitor and education center for the Archie Carr Refuge, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness of this special place. The Archie Carr Refuge (ACR) is the first national wildlife refuge dedicated to the protection of critical sea turtle nesting habitat. The ACR encompasses a 20-mile stretch of ocean coast from Melbourne Beach in Brevard County, south to Wabasso Beach in Indian River County.

Three species of sea turtles regularly nest here: loggerhead, green turtles and leatherbacks. The ACR is the most important nesting site for loggerheads in the Western Hemisphere. More green turtles nest here than anywhere else in the continental United States.

Who is Archie Carr? Dr. Archie Carr, Jr. was a graduate professor of ecology and an award winning author. Dr. Carr formed the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) in l959, to study and protect sea turtles and their Habitats. In appreciation of his lifelong efforts, the Archie Carr Refuge was named in his honor. The organization is now named the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

On a previous visit, Linda and her brother had the opportunity to observe turtles coming ashore and building nests in the sand and laying their eggs. Sure wish that I could have seen it too. At the Barrier Island Center, the movie theatre shows several short films regarding sea turtles.

One of the most fascinating exhibits is the map showing where tagged turtles migrate and just how long it takes a hatchling to mature and come back to lay eggs; 20 to 30 years is the norm. You can glean additional information about this organization and the Barrier Island Center by going to the following websites: www.conserveturtles.org and www.barrierislandcenter.com.

In addition, there are some nearby places of interest in the EEL Program Sanctuaries. Coconut Point Sanctuary is located approximately 8 miles north of the Barrier Island Center. This sanctuary features 1-mile trail through coastal strand habitat where gopher tortoises, raccoons, Florida Scrub-Jay and bobcats can be spotted regularly. We did hike this trail on 2010 and found lots of wildlife including many species of butterflies.

We also explored the maritime Hammock Sanctuary located approximately 4 miles north of the Center. This sanctuary features 3 miles of hiking to the Indian River Lagoon. You may observe bobcats, ospreys, alligators and great land crabs.

You can also find information on Sebastian Inlet State Park, located just 2.6 miles south of the Center. It is a pretty area offering fishing, boating and surfing along with many recreation opportunities for the whole family, including hiking and biking trails.

The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is located 6.8 miles south of the Center and is accessed from the Historic Jungle Trail. The refuge was established in l903 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the nation's first National Wildlife Refuge. Pelican Island features several hiking trails, an observation tower and wonderful bird watching opportunities.

The flora and fauna of Florida is diverse and interesting observe. We have never seen a place with more species of birds, fish, butterflies, etc. It would take many weeks to access and explore the sanctuaries and refuges along with other notable sites such as the Kennedy Space Center. We did have the chance to visit the Brevard County Zoo. That was a lot of fun and the subject of a future column.

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Jim Collins is an outdoor columnist for The Sunday Review. He can be contacted by e-mail at jimcollinsinsurance@frontiernet.net or by mail at Outdoors with Jim Collins, HC, 1: 87 Windfall Road, Alba, PA, 16910.