Bald eagles attract attention at Moccasin Lake Park festival

— A special event designed to raise awareness of one of the city’s wildlife preserves was a success thanks to a couple of majestic birds and a slate of fun and informative activities.

The Eagle Day Festival at Moccasin Lake Nature Park featured educational presentations, arts and craft booths and a tree climb as part of the festivities at the 50-acre preserve north of Drew Street at 2750 Park Trail Lane. The highlight of the day was the addition of two bald eagles to the sanctuary’s birds of prey exhibit.

And while many showed up just to see Penelope and Wish in their new habitats or ride on the giant tree swing, the purpose of the event was to introduce people to a park that’s in the middle of a major upgrade.

Those improvements will include renovations of the interpretive center; a new pier; improvements to trails, the teach meadow and boardwalks, restroom and picnic facilities, parking and landscaping; as well as an increase in educational programs.

“The event was very successful and was a success because of the assistance from the volunteers,” said Felicia Leonard of the Clearwater Parks and Recreation Department.

“It was an exciting format to showcase the assets at Moccasin Lake Nature Park and its environmental education programs.”

One of the more popular programs held on Saturday was the one about bald eagles hosted by Clearwater Audubon Society board member Barbara Walker. Prior to speaking before a packed room, she said the addition of Penelope and Wish is a huge benefit for the park.

“The birds of prey program increases the awareness of the park,” she said. “Not many people know we’re here, and we want to change that.

“The Clearwater Audubon Society is here a lot, and the goals of the park and the society are the same — environmental education and awareness.”

While guests roamed the mile-and-a-half of trails and visited one of the many booths set up for the festival, it seemed like everyone eventually was drawn to Penelope and Wish.

The two eagles, unable to live in the wild, were getting acclimated to their specially designed enclosures while men, woman and children of all ages stood by and marveled at their presence.

For one Clearwater mother, the addition of the eagles to what she believes is a beautiful if underutilized facility is enough to bring her back again.

“I think this place is fantastic. I think it needs more attention,” said Mary Thornton-Underhill, who was there with her two children. “I mean, the food for the birds is given by donation.

“I wish there were more signs pointing out where it (the park) is, because I drove by it twice trying to get here,” she added. “But now that I found it I love it, and I will be back.”

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