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Naturalist: ‘Life’s better outside’

Carolyn Worsham’s affinity for the outdoors went into overdrive long after she retired from her day job.

The former career educator told the Port Arthur Rotary Club on Thursday she has become a Texas master naturalist, a birding enthusiast and, most recently, a “dreamer” who would like to see Port Arthur people embrace the natural riches of this area.

Worsham said out of passing interest she joined a structured hike in the Big Thicket Canyonlands in December 2015 and was enthralled enough to set personal hiking goals for 2016, which included 100 miles of hiking there. It took her more than 20 trips, she said, but she achieved the goal while adding a second one: training for achieving “master naturalist” status.

She and her husband Bill, a former city councilmember and retired Lamar State College Port Arthur administrator, took frequent trips to state and national parks but each time they returned home they grew more appreciative of the natural beauty and riches in Southeast Texas.

More recently, she said, she has spent a year working with others who are intent on establishing enhanced natural trails on the site of the former golf course, The Palms, on Port Arthur’s Pleasure Island.

Working with neighbors and friends, they’ve cleared some 2.5 miles of cart paths and widened vistas for enjoying views of myriad trees — these include palms, oaks, ashes, cypress, willows and mulberries — as well as at least 10 ponds and various wildlife in the area, including reptiles, bobcat and some wild pigs.

Her interest in the trails developed when she began riding her bicycle through the area. She and neighbor Morris Albright used gardening equipment to cut back overgrowth and give walkers, joggers and others the chance to see the beauty along the trails. She’s planted wildflowers — they are now in full bloom — within what is 75 acres of waterfront property.

The trails include views of city landmarks, such as Woodrow Wilson Early College High School and Lamar State College. Large tankers pass in plain view of walkers.

She said the walking trails and other, established natural sites like J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, Sea Rim State Park, High Island and Cattail Marsh at Tyrrell Park offer local enthusiasts opportunities to embrace the natural wonders around them.

She recommended that those who want to enjoy and understand the natural settings seek more information about the Sabine-Neches chapter of Texas Master Naturalists to understand training and service requirements for gaining master naturalist status.

She said her pursuit of that achievement did not make her an expert on any aspect of the outdoors, but led her to know “a little bit about a lot of things,” including archaeology, geology, ornithology and more.

She said she took to heart this message from Texas Parks and Wildlife: “Life’s better outside.”

People who embrace nature, she said, have better health and mental health through a better appreciation of the world around them.

“I can assure you, life’s better outside,” she said.

 

See also: EDITORIAL — Pleasure Island: Stakes are low