New kids zone at Dana Point Interpretive Center makes nature fun

DANA POINT Brothers Asher and Isaac Bates gave the Spin and Win Wheel a good whirl.

Isaac’s spin landed on the photo of a weasel, one of the 175 animal species found around the Dana Point Interpretive Center in the Headlands Conservation area.

Now it was up to Isaac, a 2-year-old from Aliso Viejo, and his 5-year-old brother, to find a weasel in an exhibit at the center to claim his prize.

Together, the two crawled through a tunnel and popped up to look through a bubble into a terrarium that showed what a Pacific pocket mouse might see in its coastal sage scrub habitat.

“I found the weasel,” Isaac called out to his mother, Erica Bates. “It looks kinda like a long and skinny mouse.”

The Bates family was among dozens of visitors Tuesday who checked out some of the center’s new attractions, such as the Kids Fun Zone, an interactive area with a sandbox full of animal tracks and burrows, replicas and skulls of animals found at the Headlands and several hands-on displays.

While the interpretive center, perched high over the ocean, was bare bones in the early years, efforts by the city have turned it into a popular venue that educates the public about the natural resources found on the Headlands and the marine life in the tidepools and ocean below.

The fun zone was introduced earlier this month. Last fall, simple signs were replaced with more elaborate displays, such as a three-dimensional chart showing the San Juan Creek’s watershed and taxidermied animals found only on the Headlands, along with new signs explaining the area’s geological formations and history.

The Dana Point Historical Society provided historic photos that show the history of the Headlands and Dana Point.

From plain to high-end

When Jeff Rosaler, the city’s parks manager, took over in 2009, it was his dream to turn the center into something state-of-the-art. He applied for a state grant and got nearly $100,000 to make those improvements.

“It’s really…

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