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Explore the Stars, the Sun, and the Sand

Tom & Melodie Middlebrooks Volunteer to Lead Two Great Programs All Summer Long

On a late Thursday evening, a small child runs up to volunteer, Melodie Middlebrooks, and shouts, "I found a mermaid's purse!" while a teenager adorns herself with a whelk necklace found in the surf and takes a selfie on the beach.  Later in the evening, the same child gasps in wonder as she looks through Tom Middlebrook's telescope to gaze at the stars for the first time and the teenager suddenly wishes she had paid attention to the astronomy unit during science class.

For Virginia State Park volunteers, Tom and Melodie Middlebrooks, moments like these during the Thursday night Sunset Beach Stroll" and "Stargazing" programs, remind them of the joyous wonder each child can experience in the outdoors. 

You can take photo of the sun setting over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel from the park's shoreline

You can take photos of the sun setting over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

from the park's shoreline

During Melodie's "Sunset Beach Stroll" learn what a "mermaid's purse" is, why horseshoe crabs have blue blood, if the pirate Blackbeard hid his treasure nearby, and how the Chesapeake Bay was formed by millions of years ago.  Tom's "Stargazing" program introduces visitors to the delights of the night sky and how to identify summer constellations.

One of the unique things about First Landing State Park's Chesapeake Bay shoreline is that it is oriented north and is one of the only beaches in the area where you can take a walk along the beach and watch the sunset to the west so grab your camera and bug spray and head to the park. Tom and Melodie have been volunteering at the park for over 20 years.  They know the ins and outs of summer nights on the beach and the one main thing they want you to do when you come to their programs is "Bring some bug spray!"

Tom and Melodie Middlebrooks have volunteered for over 20 years

Tom and Melodie Middlebrooks have volunteered for over 20 years

The "Sunset Beach Stroll" meets at the Gazebo behind the Chesapeake Bay Center and has three parts--a touch table/show-n-tell; a stop on the boardwalk for a quick talk about the Bay; and a stroll on the beach to find your own treasures. 

The "Stargazing" program meets at the Amphitheater on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay Center behind the campstore and visitors can come and go as they like.  You are welcome to bring your own telescope, a smartphone with a stargazing app, or really strong binoculars.

These back-to-back, come-n-go programs are a great family friendly event where you can get outdoors in sand and the surf under the stars and the sun.

A rare find on the beach, some visitors have found whole whelk sheels.

A rare find on the beach, some visitors have found whole whelk shells

Both of these programs are on Thursday nights. The "Sunset Beach Stroll" usually starts between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. depending on the sunset time and "Stargazing" usually starts between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. depending on the conclusion time of the "Sunset Beach Stroll" program.

You can call First Landing State Park at 757-412-2300 to find out the exact time, but you can also show up early and buy some bug spray at the campstore if you forget yours. The campstore also sells cold drinks, snacks, and souvenirs. 

First Landing State Park is located off Route 60 (Shore Drive) in Virginia Beach.  The park has over 200 campsites, 20 cabins, 19 miles of trails, and two visitor centers.  The park is also open for day and the parking fee is $4 weekdays and $5 weekends.  There is no additional charge for the "Sunset Beach Stroll" or the "Stargazing" program. For a calendar of other fun programs at Virginia State Parks, please click here.


Published: 07/29/2014


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