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Park Pick: Beyond Shells and Surf

Unique programs enrich visitors' experiences at Galveston Island State Park.

By Walt Bailey

As the park ranger sets the scene, a young visitor rolls a die.

“During our imaginary apocalypse, you found something to eat before the zombie found you!” announces ranger Lisa Reznicek with a grin. “It looks like you didn’t become more of a zombie this time.”

At the end of the game, she counts up the number of good and bad rolls for each person and hands out candy. Those who were lucky enough to mostly avoid the zombies and thereby preserve their humanity receive more candy than those less fortunate.

It sounds like a crazy activity for a state park program, but Reznicek uses the game to help young people learn about nature. She helps them figure out if they have the skills needed to survive in nature if the zombies attack.

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At Galveston Island State Park, visitors can learn about sea turtles on the beach side.

Reznicek shows visitors how much they depend on the natural world in many of the programs she presents at Galveston Island State Park. When she succeeds, she also inspires them to help protect it.

On another day, Reznicek begins a beach hike by producing a plastic motor oil bottle with an odd shape cut into it.

“What made this hole?” she asks her audience. Nobody knows the answer. “A sea turtle bit into it, mistaking the bottle for food.”

Reznicek points out a plastic bag left on the beach.

“It looks so much like the jellyfish that turtles eat,” Reznicek says, “that they’ll surely take a bite when it washes into the Gulf.”

Moved to action, her audience helps her pick up trash on the beach.

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Tidal flats can be viewed on the bay side. Rangers incorporate learning, exercise and fun into their programs to connect visitors to the natural world.

This mix of exercise, learning and fun continues later in the day when Reznicek leads a kayak expedition on the bay side of the park. A certified kayak instructor, she teaches the skills needed for a safe and enjoyable trip, stopping periodically along the way to reveal how plants and animals live together. She also teaches geocaching and even night sky programs as healthy, enjoyable ways to connect with the natural world.

Building on a foundation for recovery from Hurricane Ike laid by the Friends of Galveston Island State Park, the park has come a long way in what it offers visitors today. Along with many programs like Reznicek’s, the park offers both beach-side and bay-side campsites, birding, hiking and a nature center with hands-on exhibits to enrich the beachcombing, fishing and sunbathing for which it has long been known.

Check with park headquarters or the park website for more information about events and activities. Galveston Island State Park is located along FM 3005 (Seawall Boulevard) next to Jamaica Beach. For information, call (409) 737-1222 or visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/galveston.

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