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  1. Life & Culture

Brooker Creek Preserve turns ‘tree walk’ into a nature game

The Traveling Tree Walk created by the Pinellas County Extension Service invites you to search and learn among the trees.
Old live oak trees are among some trees that may be seen on the Traveling Trees Walk in Brooker Creek Preserve.
Old live oak trees are among some trees that may be seen on the Traveling Trees Walk in Brooker Creek Preserve. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Apr. 15, 2020

Everyone is telling us to “get some fresh air.” But how do you do that when you’re also being told to socially distance?

The Pinellas County Extension Service recommends a walk in the park to learn the “value” of trees. They set up a scavenger hunt-style Traveling Tree Walk in Brooker Creek Preserve.

“We so often just go about our day walking right by trees without realizing, recognizing or appreciating all that trees do for us,” Lara Milligan, natural resources agent for the extension service, said.

ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
Take a walk among the oak trees in the park..
ALLIE GOULDING | Times Take a walk among the oak trees in the park.. [ ALLIE GOULDING | Tampa Bay Times ]

The walk translates the environmental benefits of a tree into dollar amounts. To start the walk, pick up a brochure of scavenger hunt questions, located outside the Environmental Education Center at the Tarpon Springs park, or download it from the preserve’s Facebook page. Then, look for trees marked with price tag signs.

“We can relate to the concept of money much better than we can to the concept of ecosystem services,” Milligan said.

Related: Why are Pinellas parks still open? 'The outdoors are important'

One example: A live oak tree prevents soil erosion ($108.62), reduces energy cost ($38.18), improves air quality ($5.13), increases property value ($63.34) and reduces carbon dioxide ($7.57). That’s a total of $222.84 per year, and an estimated total ecological value of $55,710 over the tree’s lifetime. One tree of each variety is marked with a tag. Information from these tags answers questions on the scavenger hunt.

Live oak trees prevent soil erosion, reduce energy costs, improve air quality, increase property value and reduce carbon dioxide.
Live oak trees prevent soil erosion, reduce energy costs, improve air quality, increase property value and reduce carbon dioxide. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]

"This is an opportunity to connect to nature and get outside as a family,” Milligan said.

She hopes it will teach people not to take trees for granted and that families will learn to appreciate all that trees do for us.

The Traveling Tree Walk has been set up at various parks and preserves throughout Pinellas County since 2015 (hence the “traveling” in the title). Milligan said this is the first time it has been set up as a scavenger hunt for the public.

If you go

Brooker Creek Preserve is at 3940 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs. You can also find the scavenger hunt questions at facebook.com/BrookerCreekPreserve. The park is open and admission is free. (727) 453-6800.