John Freeman goes 'around the bend' with a new business.
As Greenbrook resident John Freeman and nature guide Anne Cederberg sat at a picnic table at the pavilion of Bob Gardner Community Park, they agreed many children in the area could use a healthy dose of what they call “vitamin N” (vitamin nature).
As the new owner of Around the Bend Nature and Discovery Tours (formerly Around the Bend Nature Tours), Freeman is ready to remedy the situation.
The business offers in-school programs and field trips for students as well as programs and nature walks for children and
adults. Freeman hopes to offer day camps on days school is out of session, such as holidays or teacher workdays.
“We’re getting the kids outside,” Freeman said. “They’re gaining that sense of place.”
Freeman hopes to partner with the Lakewood Ranch YMCA. Around the Bend would offer outdoor camp activities at a site in the morning, and then the Y could provide air-conditioned or pool play in the afternoons.
The first camp is tentatively planned for Nov. 11, when schools are closed for Veterans Day. It would be held at Bob Gardner Community Park, off White Eagle Boulevard in Lakewood Ranch, where there are wetlands and ponds for exploration and open fields for educational games.
“It’s the perfect environment here,” Freeman said. “Kids love catching critters.”
Around the Bend’s portion of the camp likely would include a nature walk and a scavenger hunt. Children also might explore ponds to see what they can catch in dip nets. What they find will paint a clearer picture of that pond’s health. For example, if dragonfly nymphs and certain snails are present, that indicates a healthy ecosystem, but leeches and other types of snails could indicate poor water quality, Cederberg said.
Freeman, an adjunct professor of environmental science and policy at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, learned of the former Around the Bend business in summer 2018 when his children, now 10-year-old Colin and 8-year-old Sophia, attended a summer camp with the organization at Myakka River State Park. They loved the experience, and Freeman got to know the founder and owner, Karen Fraley, along with the guides.
When the business became available for purchase, Freeman seized the opportunity. He assumed ownership officially July 30 and has added “and discovery” to the business name. He has been following guides in the field to better
understand the organization and create plans for the future.
Freeman said school field trips provide the bulk of the existing business, and he considers the camp offerings to be a first step for the programming that is to come. He said he hopes to provide nature tour programs appealing to the international market and also to expand offerings for adults.
Cederberg is a naturalist and said she hopes to offer wellness-focused nature classes for adults. Such classes could include shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of being mindful in nature, and miksang, a contemplative, Tibetan approach to photography.
Cederberg said being outside helps restore an individual’s balance with nature.
“It’s not just the kids that don’t get outside; it’s their parents,” Cederberg said. “People don’t know how to be outside and maximize their enjoyment. This gives people skills to enjoy it all the time.”
“We have a lot of big plans,” Freeman said. “We want to be able to venture out into new programs. It’s not pie in the sky.”