Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Walk on the Wild Side City's Naturalist Opens `Classroom' to All

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Walk on the Wild Side City's Naturalist Opens `Classroom' to All

Article excerpt

A stream at Rob Barnovsky's grandmother's house helped him

chart his career course.

Long walks along that stream, he said, made him fall in love

with nature.

"It just feels like nature accepts you," he said. "That is what

I want to share with others. That is what I want them to feel."

As park naturalist for the city's Department of Parks,

Recreation and Entertainment, Barnovsky teaches about a bigger

body of water -- the St. Johns River -- and other aspects of

nature that are unique to North Florida.

He also leads participants on hikes at different nature parks,

including Hanna Park, and in other activities that allow them to

experience nature firsthand. Barnovsky said he hopes the outings

will make participants more aware of why they must protect their

environment.

"I want people to have a personal experience with nature,"

Barnovsky said, "because the only way people will come to care

about something is if they have a personal experience with it.

"I cover what's in people's back yards. I'm a teacher with four

very large walls -- north, south, east and west. As far as you

can see in any direction, we can talk about. You can't do that

in a classroom."

Information about nature and its protection can be found at the

Museum of Science and History, the Jacksonville zoo or

Barnovsky. The difference is that his programs are offered

outdoors, he said.

Nature Scope is published every two months by Barnovsky and the

Department of Parks, Recreation and Entertainment. The

newsletter lists all the available programs for the months

ahead.

Barnovsky said that nature education is important, and everyone

needs to understand the environment.

"Things we consider annoyances, nature considers a balance,"

Barnovsky said. "We want all the beauty, but we fear that beauty

as well. Nothing out there will hurt us."

This Boy Scout has enjoyed nature since childhood. Barnovsky

attained the ranking of Eagle Scout, the highest mark a Scout

can achieve. Compared to hailstorms, hurricanes and 50-mile

canoeing trips, he said being a park naturalist is easy.

Now he gives back to the organization that gave to him. As an

assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 169 on the Westside, Barnovsky

said he hopes he can instill the same nature-sensitive values in

his troop as were given to him at such a young age.

"They [the Boy Scouts] were the ones who taught me to respect

nature," Barnovsky said. Being outdoors is a great place to be,

not a place to be feared. Why aren't more people outside?"

Barnovsky, 28, an Ohio native, started the Nature Program when

he arrived in Jacksonville in March 1992. He developed the Owl

Prowl program, which is now offered in Jacksonville, while he

was a park ranger at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation

Area. …

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