TOMS RIVER – You might be surprised at the diversity of plants and animals in Ocean County. They might not be in your back yard, depending on where you live, but deer, fox, and a lot more are in the wooded areas, and there were ways to learn about them at the Cattus Island Nature Festival.
Centered around the recently revived Cooper Environmental Center, the festival was a way for families to learn more about the world around them. Live animal demonstrations complemented the tanks of animals on display. Exhibits and games were set up to teach people how to identify furs, shells, and other artifacts. Around the center were tables set up for art projects. Local groups like the Potter Creek Crusaders or Master Gardeners had information booths. Woodworkers and other crafters sold their wares.
Outdoor activities such as archery and seining were organized. So was kayaking, but it was a little too windy that day so that event was cancelled.
The 4-H organization had a few young people showing the animals they cared for, hoping to teach people how to take care of hamsters and rabbits because they make really good pets.
For 39 years, the festival has provided people with an appreciation for the natural world in the county. It was also an opportunity to learn about Cattus Island County Park. Nestled off Fischer Boulevard, it’s almost 500 acres of trails and waterways. It gets more than 2,000 visitors a year, but there’s always room for more, said park naturalist Nicole Vernachio.
“Once they come here, they become repeat customers,” she said.