Get Outdoors Day gator

Gabe Giffin, who works out of the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge as a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, shows Paislee Hugley how to hold a baby alligator Saturday during National Get Outdoor Day festivities.

SULPHUR — Southwest Louisiana residents were invited to grab their best pair of running shoes, fill up their water bottles and head outdoors Saturday as part of National Get Outdoors Day.

Angie Manning, communications director for the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the day was created to encourage people to get outdoors and explore.

“So many times people are spending a lot of time indoors and they are on their computers and on their iPad and they’re not getting their Vitamin D,” Manning said. “This is a way to really reconnect with nature, especially here in Southwest Louisiana with our bountiful waterways, wildlife, birds and things to do outdoors.”

Manning said the bureau chose to celebrate the day at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point as way to fully display all the activities and attractions offered by the trail.

“After they visit here, we’re encouraging families to get on the trail itself and see the National Wildlife Refuge and the Wetland Walkway, go shelling on the Gulf beaches,” Manning said. “It’s a beautiful day today so people can also get more active and go paddle boarding and kayaking. There are great options in Southwest Louisiana.”

Families from as far away as California, Illinois and Utah were among guests who visited Saturday afternoon and had the opportunity to explore Adventure Point, hold baby alligators and take pictures with Gumbo Gator.

Gabe Giffin, who works out of the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge as a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, brought four baby alligators Saturday for families to admire.

“These type of events serve as an entry point,” Giffin said. “You can’t expect people to get out into the wild, get on the Creole Nature Trail without a starting point. On days like this we can conceptualize some of the things they’ll see going on down on the trail and we can give them information on spots where they can stop.”

Giffin said the event was two-fold for him.

“We’ve got to turn this interest we’re seeing today into helping with coastal restoration down the road,” he said. “As fun as all this is, we have coastal issues down the road and we need to get enough people educated on it first of all and then get them involved. To me, this is all part of the bigger plan.”

Chadd Tarpley of Shreveport was vacationing with daughters Ava and Regan when they decided to stop by Adventure Point.

“I had never been down here, I’m originally from Michigan, and we wanted to go on the Creole Nature Trail,” he said. “We did a little bit of it yesterday and came back today to do more.”

“It was a fascinating, one-on-one activity,” said Amanda Hugley, who with her husband, Cody, brought daughters Paislee and Chevelle to see the alligators.

“The alligators felt bumpy and one of them was heavy, but I wasn’t scared,” Chevelle said.

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