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Four fun ways to experience Point Defiance

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The network of roads and hiking trails around Point Defiance Park include several viewpoints that feature the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. JBLM PAO photo

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For nature lovers hoping to get out and enjoy a sun-break or feast the eyes on massive trees, exotic plants or several species of animals, a day at Point Defiance Park and its Port Defiance Marina, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium or Fort Nisqually is sure to be a pleasurable experience.

From slugs to sea animals and shrubs to 200-year-old fir trees, activities at Point Defiance Park are filled with opportunities to learn and stand in awe.

For example, Tacoma Giants: Part 1 Trees of Point Defiance Park is a low-key nature walk — about 500 feet — that’s designed for children, older visitors and those with mobility issues. The walk begins at the Fort Nisqually Picnic Shelter. Cost to participate is $4. That begins Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

For those who want the experience to continue, the Tacoma Giants: Part 2 Immersion Tree Walk is a two-hour excursion — about 1-mile long — beginning Saturday at 11 a.m. That activity also begins at the Fort Nisqually Picnic Shelter. Participants are advised to dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. The cost is $8.

Both activities are led by Jessica Cimpoes, an experienced tree climber who has studied old-growth trees and is passionate about sharing the wonders of the forest with others.

If your interest is more in the creatures of nature — or if you’ve ever dreamt of having your own pet slug — a Slug Celebration Walk is planned at Point Defiance Park March 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The hike is bound to provide some interesting, albeit slimy, creatures for observation.

According to the park’s Facebook page: “From local heroes to invading enemies, get to know the gastropods — also known as slugs and snails — who call Point Defiance Park home, including Washington’s largest species of land snail.”

And, lest one think slugs won’t get a lot of celebration, nearly 750 people already have clicked “interested” in attending the Slug Celebration.

Another opportunity — in addition to wandering over to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium while in the neighborhood — is to sign up as a volunteer for one of several cleanup or conservation events at or around the park. Coming up April 27 and 28 is a 24-hour BioBlitz at Point Defiance Park.

“This is a great way to explore and celebrate the park’s role as a natural wonder that belongs to all of us and deserves our continued conservation commitment,” said Erik Hanberg, one of five members of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners.

No experience is necessary to take part in the free event, which allows guests to join a small group of investigators, guided by expert scientists and naturalists, to count and identify specific plants, trees, shrubs, insects and birds on the 760-acres of parkland.

The park’s last BioBlitz was in May 2011, when 164 volunteers came together and surveyed nine groups of plants and animals. Among them were fungi, fish, invasive species and both marine and terrestrial invertebrates.

Coordinators are hoping for at least 200 people to volunteer for the event this year.

Volunteers must make a four-hour commitment. Register in advance by contacting event coordinator Craig Standridge at 253-404-3690 or Children as young as age 8 are welcome. Children younger than age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

The rendezvous point for the event is Science Central, located in the new Environmental Learning Center just outside Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

Volunteers should dress for the weather, preferably in layers, wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and bring water bottles for use outdoors. Food and beverages will be provided at the Environmental Learning Center.

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