A gator in Lake April – just swimming along enjoying the day. [ Sandra Chafin | Contributed ]
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Take a trip down Pond Road for glimpses at local nature

This article is the third in a series by Sandra Chafin Cole exploring the many trails within the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. To read the first article, click here.

If you’ve been following along with our series on trails in the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, you have already explored several miles of what the preserve has to offer.

As we continue our adventure, we are going to take Pond Road. 

The actual name of the body of water on Pond Road is Lake April. How it got its name is unknown to the current preserve staff.

Maybe Lake April started out as a pond and eventually grew into a lake, since it is man-made. 

The first preserve manager says it was named by the owner of the property when the state purchased the original 702 acres of the preserve. 702 acres has now grown to 5,027 acres.

Preserve staff try hard to maintain everything in its natural state. They work to inventory and restore the preserves’ natural communities. 

As you pass Lake April and continue down the trail, you will notice both sides of the road have undergone prescribed burning. The longleaf pines are flourishing from the prescribed burns. The undergrowth of palmettos along with other flora and fauna is just what the staff ordered. 

There will be many different species of plants growing under the pines.

Notice the undergrowth, which is home to many wildlife species. There can be as many as 50 different plant species in a small area in the pine forests. Old growth pine forests covered the south before being over harvested for boat and house building. Very few of the old growth piney woods remain, but historically they covered 90% of the southern United States. 

You might see deer while on Pond Road. They seem to like this area and have been spotted many times. They might notice you, look up, then continue eating.

Pond Road is 1.87 miles long. Be sure to bring water, a hat, walking shoes, sunscreen, bug repellent and a phone. Phone service can be spotty in the Uplands, or as staff calls it “the heart of the Preserve.”

Hiking Pond Road is your best bet to see trees, plants, animals and nature at its finest! 

Find out more about the Preserve and its Citizen Support Organization — Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserve — at www.stjosephbaypreserve.org. You can be a member of this growing and vibrant group working to make the Buffer Preserve even better. 

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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