You are driving through the Vero Beach area and see a sign that says “ELC next right.” But this is something you are not aware of or unsure what it is all about. So you have to ask: “What is the ELC?” The answer is: “The Environmental Learning Center.”
You can become one with nature by spending time at the ELC in Vero Beach, Florida while roaming through the 64 acres of mangrove swamps, out to the Indian River Lagoon and through the Boardwalk walking path. Along the path you can see hammocks, salt marshes and a mangrove forest. The campus is filled with everything that is native to Florida, including live oaks, cabbage palms, sabal palms and coontie wax. All non-native plants, such as the Brazilian Pepper Trees, have been removed from the campus.
But how do I know what I am looking at? Simple. Throughout the walking paths there are signs with descriptions of all the plants and animals found in that area. There are even samples of what the foot prints of each animal is to help you track the animals. You can also use your cell phone to call in and take a guided walking tour by inputting numbers on designated signs. You will be given a verbal description of where you are at, what you see and where to go next on the tour.
The ELC is also home to many native Florida animals, such as birds, fish, crustaceans, mammals. The Indian River Lagoon is home to more than 4,000 different species of animals, 36 of which have been listed as rare or endangered by the Endangered Species Act. If you venture down to the canoe dock you can see dolphins playing in the water and manatees just off shore.
No visit to the ELC is complete without a stop in the Discovery Center which is home to the largest brackish water aquarium in Indian River County. You can also get a hands on feel at the touch tank where you can pick up and touch the different animals that call the lagoon their home. The Discovery Center also has different dioramas with lift panels, touchable displays, a life-sized replica of a manatee head and an authentic manatee skeleton that can be found hanging from the ceiling.
The Entry Pavilion has maps and brochures about everything that can be found throughout the ELC, including program times. You can also stop by the gift shop for nature themed gifts, books and accessories. (I personally love the frog fan!!)
The ELC is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon and on Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Cost of admission is $5 for adults and children are free. The ELC offers free admission the first Saturday of each month.
The ELC is located on CR-510 just east of U.S. Highway 1 before the Wabasso Bridge.