Terri Mashour is the co-founder of Fun4FirstCoastKids.com, a website offering thousands of activities for local kids and families. With her sister and co-founder, Susie Mashour Rawlins, she shares her deep knowledge of the Jacksonville area and its native habitats with parents and kids looking for fun things to do.
What sort of content and information will visitors find at Fun4FirstCoastKids.com?
Fun4FirstCoastKids.com is the #1 free local website for Northeast Florida families. It lists almost 4,000 resources for families like gymnastics gyms, sports programs, cooking schools, special needs programs, preschools and childcare centers. It lists places to have fun around town from hot air balloon rides, indoor places to jump and nature adventures to water fun for summer. Starting March 1 we will have more than 1,000 summer camps so families can research prices, dates, early registration discounts, free camps, and area of town in one click.
We also have a calendar page that lists hundreds of events for families. If you have the kids home on a Monday, just check that date and you’ll see all the library programs, free fun, places to jump and special events. Families will love following our social media pages where we do multiple fun giveaways weekly and share ideas for free fun! We receive over 200,000 page views a month, all from families in Northeast Florida looking for things to do with their children. Essentially we are a one stop shop for kids in Jacksonville.
You have an extensive background in forestry and conservation. How did you come to found a website focused on family activities?
I grew up on the beaches of Jacksonville, but through my dad’s extensive gardening at home, I developed a love for nature and caring for the environment. That led me to The College of Charleston to pursue a Biology degree. Following an internship with the USDA Forest Service, I came back to Florida to complete a master’s degree in Forest Resources and Conservation at The University of Florida. Growing up in the city within Jax, you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself working for almost a decade alongside mostly cowboys and men in Florida’s forests. I am a Florida Certified Prescribed Burner, qualified to lead prescribed burns and respond to forest fires. I’ve conducted close to 100 burns in Florida’s forests.
When my first baby was born, I decided I couldn’t sleep on wildfires for weeks without her. I stayed home and started my own environmental consulting business while I finished my second master’s degree. For two years with my daughter at home, I used the Fun4GatorKids.com website to find tons of activities around town. When they started expanding, I decided to team up with my sister and start our own Fun4FirstCoastKids.com website in Jacksonville!
As a Jacksonville native, what do you think visitors or newcomers may find surprising to learn about the First Coast and the things to do here?
Many people think of beaches when they think of Florida, but many would be surprised to know that Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the entire United States. We have hundreds of City of Jax parks, thousands of acres of St. Johns River Water Management District backcountry lands, and national parks lands. You can get lost in our forests yet be right in the middle of big city Jacksonville! This is a great place to immerse children in nature and start them on a path towards loving and protecting our environment.
With your background in nature and conservation, what are some of your personal favorite First Coast outdoor activities?
My sister and I started playing beach volleyball at age 16 at our Jacksonville Beach pier so we love being active at the beach. Even though we fought growing up, we were actually beach doubles partners and toured Florida regionally, playing in beach volleyball tournaments. We were a great team, then and now! We also like hiking at Julington Durbin Preserve in Bartram Park so we can get our kids out in nature and show them where I used to work with prescribed fire.
While your website is focused on local activities, you have traveled quite a bit. What were some of your favorite destinations and experiences?
I love learning new languages and experiencing life in different cultures to learn about other perspectives. That led me to travel to Europe in 2006 and experience the food, languages and ancient architecture of many of the western European countries. In 2008 I was invited to experience a Rotary International Group Study Exchange to study water management in the Netherlands for a month. I have volunteered with kids in Guatemala, where I hiked a volcano to within arm’s reach of flowing lava; I’ve hiked many trails throughout Alaska; I’ve hiked the four-day Incan Trail to Machu Picchu with my husband while pregnant; and I’ve hiked on almost every trail in Northeast Florida. In fact, my book, “100 Backcountry Hikes: Hiking the Trails of Florida’s Water Management Districts,” comes out this year!
What is your favorite part of living on the First Coast?
My favorite part of living on the First Coast is being so close to such a unique ecosystem of Florida nature. Every day we are part of, survive in and get to see Florida’s natural beauty. I love being near our swamps, rivers, creeks, estuaries and nearby springs. How cool is it that we have manatees, right whales that swim to our oceans to calve in the winter and even Florida black bear not far from Jax? Our beaches are wild and untamed and the ocean air brings relaxation and peace. The First Coast has all the “Old Florida” beauty, and even though we have alligators, tons of mosquitoes, bugs, heat, snakes and humidity, I love it all.