Though February is the shortest month of the year, Oracle State Park Center for Environmental Education is packing the weekends with lots of informative programs and fun events. Best of all, they’re free with park admission.
Brand new is Meet the Neighbors, a presentation of special interest to newcomers who want to learn more about their desert wildlife neighbors. The staff of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will cover living habits and ecological roles, dispel some myths and offer practical guidance for how to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative encounters with creatures like tarantulas, snakes, bats, bobcats, coyotes and raptors. Some live animals will be shown. The program begins at noon on Sunday, February 28 in the Kannally Ranch House living room; reservations are required by calling the park office, 520-896-2425.
Mountain bikers of all expertise levels are invited to a guided bike ride over six miles of park trails, covering varied terrain and a section of the Arizona Trail. It begins at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 21; call for reservation.
Another popular Music in the Park is set for Saturday, February 20 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. A local band will play a lively Americana mix for dancing and toe-tapping; visitors can bring their own lunch and beverages to enjoy on the upper patio.
Other February activities include:
• Guided nature walk with park ranger Gary Faulkenberry on February 6 beginning at 1:00 p.m. Reservation suggested.
• Bear Necessities interactive program with Arizona State Parks volunteer Richard Boyer at 11:30 a.m. on February 14. Learn about the black bear of Arizona, bear encounter safety and enjoy an appearance from the Everywhere Bear. Reservation suggested.
• Mineralogy program with local mineralogist Wolfgang Mueller at 11:00 a.m. on February 27 will include information on rocks associated with regional mining operations and lapidary uses. Reservation suggested.
Guided tours of the historic Kannally Ranch House are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday. The 45-minute tour visits rooms and patios extending down the hillside. The multi-level Mediterranean-Revival style house, built in 1929-33 by one of the earliest cattle ranching families in Oracle, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An exhibit of impressionistic-style cowboy paintings by self-taught artist Lee Kannally is on display in the living room and dining room.
The park is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; park admission is $7 per car at the main gate on Mt. Lemmon Road in Oracle. Full Oracle State Park event information is always posted on the state parks website: www.azStateParks.com/Parks/ORAC.
For information about all 28 Arizona State Parks, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and the State Historic Preservation Office, call 800-285-3703. Campsite reservations can be made online at AZStateParks.com or by calling the reservation call center at 520-586-2283. Follow AZStateParks on Twitter and Facebook.