Ruskin, Florida
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Ruskin Historical Society

Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center

a project of Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery, Inc.


Camp Bayou has been owned since 1995 by Hillsborough County
Parks and Recreation Department under their Environmental
Land Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP). Its acquisition
complements a wildlife corridor which includes the Little
Manatee State Recreation Area, with its 1000+ acres,  less than
one-quarter mile away. State, regional or local governments have
purchased the great majority of the Little Manatee River’s
shoreline (as well as Cockroach Bay).

Location of Little Manatee Watershed in relation to Tampa Bay
Camp Bayou is environmentally sensitive and will remain so as an ELAPP property. The site is also the location of a now abandoned 70 slip recreation vehicle/campground with limited wastewater, water and electrical services. The condition of the property had been degraded through the camp activities, in evidence from years of trash, still routinely found and carted away by volunteers. More importantly, the site is home to extremely significant ecosystems which exist within the park. These include pine/palmetto scrub uplands, live oak hammock and oligohaline wetlands that serve as nurseries for a wide range of critters. A sizable population of gopher tortoises makes their home in the scrub, while manatees are often seen frolicking in the river. The pristine and comparatively undisturbed character of the Little Manatee is made more significant by its location directly in the heart of one of the largest, subtropical, urban communities in America -- Tampa Bay. It is the third largest river in Hillsborough County and has a dominating influence on the surrounding region, including the intertidal wetlands of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. It has been designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway.
Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, Resource Management Unit, is responsible for the ecological management of Camp Bayou which consists of prescribed burning, non-native invasive plant control and maintenance. Overnight security is provided by on-site county personnel. Future resource management goals include optimizing the habitat conditions for listed species. BOLD has taken on the project of creating a unique outdoor learning center for the benefit of Ruskin and all of the Tampa Bay region….. and beyond!


Programs and Activities:

• Environmental Education programs for youth- school, scouts, home-school, etc. • Volunteers trained to lead interpretive walks. • Eco-tour vehicle holds 7 passengers- mainly used for the physically challenged. • Outdoor exhibits include ‘Birding 101’ garden, rainwater catchment systems, watershed model and native plant demonstration gardens. • Nature Center contains information and displays related to living next to nature. • Library contains over 200 donated or loaned books and magazines. • Computer offers access to educational programs on CD-ROM. • Classroom doubles as community meeting room. • Ruskin/South Hillsborough County exhibit in Visitor’s Center. • Native plants have been propagated for demonstration garden, as well as sale. • Renovation of Giant’s Cabins which will contain exhibits showing historical uses of the river and bay including fishing, crabbing, etc. • Speaker’s Bureau: Camp Bayou .overview plus a variety of special topics • Off-site presenters discuss Center as well as disseminate information on a variety of environmental issues at fairs, shows and other public events (past events: Manatee Arts Festival, USF Plant Sale, Tomato Festival, Seafood Festival, Nature’s Classroom outreach, EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival). • Participation in relevant conferences includes info display for exposure, presentations, and networking with potential partners (past conferences: League of Environmental Educators of Florida, Florida Audubon Society). • Designated site on West Florida Birding Trail through the FFWC. • Center updates related through press releases, relevant listserves, and quarterly newsletter sent to members and others who sign up to receive notification, as well as elected officials. In addition news and relevant information is related through the website- www.campbayou,org ; blogs –central blog at; Facebook page and Twitter - @campbayou .

Educational Non-Profits at Camp Bayou

Paleo Preserve

Nature Center
updated September 9, 2013 page created and maintained by NEOPHYTES UNYTE!