With what is becoming an annual event, visitors from all over Southwest Florida will bring their walking shoes, sun blockers, and binoculars and cameras to the Second Annual Wings Over Water Festival to be held both Friday, April 5 and Saturday April 6 at Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres.
"Harns Marsh is one of Lehigh's greatest assets and it features some of the most interesting wildlife. If you've seen all the canals here in Lehigh, most of them eventually empty in Harns Marsh and it is a beautiful gem of Lehigh," said spokeswoman and community coordinator Carla Ulakovic, of East County Water Control District, which maintains the canals and Harns Marsh and the lands around it. Ulakovic helped to plan the event along with others at the ECWCD.
While there will be plenty of activities, you may want to bring a beach chair of your own to make sure you have a seat to several presentations planed.
PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE CITIZEN
Wings over Water Festival logo.
The event begins at 8 a.m. and continues to 11 a.m. on Friday with a nature walk presentation: Discover Harns Marsh. You will learn about plans for the large lake and reservations are preferred by calling the ECWC and let them know you're coming. If more people show up than planned, they will have a second nature walk presentation.
On Saturday, April 6, they're calling it their Wings over Water Festival Day and there is a scheduled bird walk with Jerry Jackson, education stations to see, presentations, food, duck races and more.
Jackson is professor of ecological sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. His expertise focuses on forest and coastal ecosystems, bird management issues associated with aviation, and the history of ornithology.
Also on Saturday, Mark Renz, who is a fossil guide and author of numerous books on Florida fossils, will give a presentation. He will share insights on the world of "fossiling" and will have bones and teeth from prehistoric animals such as mammoth, mastodon, sloth, armadillo, and more. Most of the fossils have been collected by Renz over the past several years, starting out as a hobby.
Charles Sobzack, is an author of multiple books, including The Living Gulf Coast- A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida. He will share his experiences and answer questions.
The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium will walk guests through the trouble with invasive exotic animals and have several species with them.
Steve Masek, known as the "Snakeman" will have a variety of invasive exotic animals that are threatening native populations of
Southwest Florida animals. He will have live pythons and lizards commonly captured in the local area such as the Burmese python, Tegu lizard and others.
"The programs and the things to see are for all ages. Bring the children for an exciting experience," Ulakovic said.
On Friday, you can join guides Cathy Olson, Lee County Parks and Recreation and David E. Lindsay, ECWCD district manager, as they share the history of Harns Marsh on a guided nature walk. You'll learn about future plans for Harns Marsh and the West Marsh.
Harn's Marsh is one of the few homes to the snail kite and during a bird walk at 8 a.m., visitors will be able to spot them.
There's also a duck race sponsored by Lehigh Community Services. Rae Nicely, its executive director, will sell you the use of a plastic duck for a nominal fee of $5 and they will be put into the water for a race to see which "duckie" will win.
"ECWC will release moving water for the race," Nicely said. "It can be a lot of fun and it is a fundraiser for the agency," she said. Members of the chamber will supply prizes, she said.
Refreshments throughout the event will also benefit Lehigh Acres Community Initiative and their efforts to keep the community clean and beautiful.
The WOW festival is planned for rain or shine, so bring your umbrellas if you see a threat of rain.
To get to Harn's Marsh, from Lee Blvd., head north on Sunshine Blvd. Turn left on Olive and then turn left on 38th St and it will take you into the marsh entrance where there is ample parking.