Residents can take in breathtaking scenery while gliding along miles of paths and learning about different species at Wellington’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat through Green Motion Segway Tours.
Wellington resident Andrew Beller shares his passion about the environment while pointing out wonders within the community during these reservation-only tours. Tours are two hours in length at the cost of $65 per person and include Segway training.
Located off Flying Cow Road in Wellington’s western reaches, the 365-acre environmental preserve is the site of the tour and offers paved paths that twist and turn through different landscapes.
A vast number of rare birds forage in marshes and lakes that spread across the broad expanse of the preserve. Wooden boardwalks allow viewers to hover over the top of the water to glimpse up close the striking colors of the distinct wildlife, including rare and endangered birds as well as grasses, fish and snails native to the Everglades.
The tour includes an earpiece to listen in on what you encounter, and it allows one to see unique wildlife for the first time and to learn whether it’s native to the Everglades or an invasive species. A must for fun family things to do in Wellington, the Segway Tour includes no more than six riders per tour.
And the tour is truly enlightening.
“My passion is the Everglades and saving the Everglades,” Beller said. “We live in an amazing area where there is an extraordinary habitat in our back yards. Here at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat, one can see wildlife, gators and birds. It’s great to be able to come out and enjoy the nature. It’s literally the best place on the earth.”
Beller’s tours include plenty of information about the unique Everglades environment.
“The reason why I do the Everglades Segway tours is to teach the younger generation about how the Everglades affect the whole planet,” he said. “And how it affects all the animals and how it affects all the humans. It has a domino effect on everything that we do. By saving the Everglades and letting the water flow naturally from Orlando on down to the Keys, maybe we can help with global warming, and maybe we can help save the planet and enjoy the natural beauty that we are supposed to have.”
Two of the five tour-takers were a retired married couple who are longtime volunteers in Ochopee, an Everglades area in Collier County, during the winters off of U.S. 41, the crossway from Miami to Naples. Merrill and Sarah Frank knew significant details about the wildlife and often added extra details to Beller’s knowledgeable descriptions of a bird or other species into the two-way radio.
They shared what they find in their area of the Everglades and were surprised to see species in Wellington that they never had the chance to see before. “We give tours to the kids from schools, mostly from Miami, and we teach them about the environment,” Sarah said. “The kids come and go through five different stations. We do the interpretation on the different stations. The stations include learning about water, birds, sawgrass and invasive species.”
The Segway tour, however, was a new experience for them.
“Even if you’ve ridden a Segway before, they are scary at first, but once you get used to them, they feel like it’s a part of you,” Sarah said.
Her husband agreed.
“It doesn’t take you long to relax. Once you do, you get to where you just want to keep going,” Merrill said. “Because we volunteer in the Everglades, we have seen just about everything, though we’ve never seen the invasive [European swamp hen] bird that is here, or the limpkin up close. They are usually hiding in the Everglades. We’ve never seen so many birds in one place.”
The Franks loved the tour.
“This has been one of the high points of seeing Florida for us. We love the outdoors, and we’ve been all over the United States, and it’s amazing to see how Wellington looks after the Everglades,” Sarah said. “We’ve been on a Segway tour before on Sanibel Island, but this one was over the top because you can see so much. Our tour guide, Andrew, really knows what he’s looking at. We drove two and a half hours to do this. I am glad we did.”
Two other Segway tour-riders were Glen and Haley Goodman, a father and daughter from New Jersey visiting his parents and her grandparents in Boynton Beach.
“It was an eye-opening experience and very educational,” Glen said. “Andrew is doing a great thing by educating people about the Everglades and saving the Everglades and all these rare birds from extinction. They need our help… We’ve meant to come here for years, and we are so glad to have the opportunity to see the preserve on a Segway tour.”
Haley agreed. “The Segways are fun,” she added. “You get so used to them that you forget and go fast.”
Gliding along the 365 acres of interior lands that rise out of the wetlands, the native landscapes provide a display of natural Florida from the paved pedestrian paths, the boardwalks and seven designated learning areas.
“You come here, and you see things you would never see anywhere else. Here you get to see limpkins up close, and that is unheard of anywhere else,” Beller said. “We often see a bald eagle out here flying and a green falcon, belted kingfishers in the woodpecker family as they hover over the water like a hummingbird, and then they dive right in like the elevator floor fell off the floor.”
Built through a partnership between the South Florida Water Management District and the Village of Wellington, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat helps the village comply with the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, where the rainwater from Wellington must be cleansed of phosphorus before it enters the Everglades. The preserve was named the 2010 “Project of the Year” by the Palm Beach County chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Included in the Wellington Environmental Preserve is a large decorative trellis on one island and a six-story observation tower that provides an amazing overview of the vast surroundings.
There are several stormwater pump stations along the wetland canals, and the preserve also includes a 3.6-mile perimeter equestrian trail where several horses and their riders enjoyed their afternoon.
The preserve is named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of The Everglades: River of Grass, her book published in 1947 that generated support for the protection of the fragile ecosystem. She recognized the Everglades as a system dependent on the flow of water from both Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, which feeds the Everglades. In 1970, she formed the Friends of the Everglades and was an active leader in the fight to preserve the Everglades until her death in 1998.
Riding a Segway is a fun experience and a skill very easy to master. It takes less than a half-hour to be comfortable on a Segway, the world’s first self-balancing human transporter.
To see the incredible wildlife in Wellington from a unique perspective, contact Andrew Beller at (561) 909-7779 or visit www.greenmotiontours.com.