When a crowd gathered around the proto-type kiosk during the Florida Black Bear Festival in March one lady said, “It’s cute. I want one in my front yard.”
As it turned out, that was Shananne Cain a local business owner and member of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce. She was instrumental in getting the Florida Black Bear Festival Partnership to donate funds for a kiosk for the Byway. That was the sixth scenic byway kiosk donated within a two month period.
As part of the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway’s Master Plan project, a “Volunteer Sponsored Kiosk Program” was developed and implemented over the summer. For $600-$700 sponsors can donate an outdoor kiosk built and installed by local byway members and volunteers.
The newest kiosk sits outside the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce office where Executive Director Susan Martin can see it as she goes about her daily activities. The kiosk tells visitors about the history and culture of the byway on one side and celebrates the Florida Black Bear Festival on the other side. "The Partnership of the Florida Black Bear Festival is pleased to participate in the many ecotourism opportunities associated with the promotion of the Byway and look forward to continuing to develop our partnership with the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway to facilitate and promote the festival."
The free, family-oriented festival, now in its 14th year, is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park in Umatilla, south of the Ocala National Forest. The free event is a great way for families to spend a few hours together doing something fun and educational at the same time. One of the most popular activities is a tour that takes you deep into the Ocala National Forest, where FWC bear research biologists are waiting to lead field-trip participants through natural bear habitat and explain a bit of bruin natural history.
Central Florida boasts the highest density of bears in the state and can truly be called bear country. But that distinction brings with it the responsibility to learn how to live with bears with minimal conflict. “Helping people understand bear behavior has always been one of the FWC’s primary goals for the festival,” Basham said. “If people who live in bear country understand what makes bears tick, they will know what they can do to discourage bears from causing problems in their homes and communities.”
The festival is presented by Defenders of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Umatilla, the FWC and the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the 14th annual Florida Black Bear Festival, call 352-669-3511 or visit http://umatillachamber.org/BlackBearFest/.
The Scenic Byway Interpretive Plan developed to tell the Byway Story included plans for 16 two-sided outdoor kiosks strategically placed along the 120-mile byway. The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway shared the concept at meetings and with others, within three months there was a total of eight kiosks donated. It’s been a great program for expanding ownership and interest in the byway. Some of those who donated kiosks asked for custom panels of information pertinent to the byway story. Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is also planning on installing “Sponsored by” plaques on the kiosks to personalize them. In some cases, sponsors have asked that the plaque indicate that the kiosk is dedicated to a family member. The next two kiosks are planned for the Bartram’s Oak on the St, Johns River and Sparky’s Restaurant both locations are in Astor.
For more information or to view pictures of the new kiosk or the Florida Black Scenic Byway please visit our Facebook page or website at www.floridablackbearscenicbyway.org
Download Kiosk Location Map