June rich with outdoors activities

MARIETTA – Disconnecting with technology and reconnecting with the great outdoors is the message Marietta organizations are united in conveying this weekend and all month long.

Many in the community will be taking part in National Get Outdoors Day today, which is aimed at encouraging healthy, active outdoor fun for American families. According to the website nationalgetoutdoorsday.org, the mission is to offer and encourage traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities and to reach first-time visitors to public lands. The day also aims to reconnect youth with the “great outdoors.”

One of the 179 National Get Outdoors Day locations includes an activity occurring at Wayne National Forest the following weekend on June 18.

“The entire month of June is in consideration for the title of a ‘get outdoors’ event,” said Dawn McCarthy, Athens District recreation ream leader for the Wayne National Forest. “While we have free things to do all year round within the forest, (June 18) will be our big celebratory day.”

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Leith Run and Lamping Homestead Recreation Areas will host an array of events including a fishing derby for those 17 and under with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Following the derby, which is co-sponsored by Grandview Volunteer Fire Department, participants can enjoy a free lunch, use of a climbing wall, archery, bicycle obstacle course, conservation education and a visit from Smokey Bear plus face painting.

“A lot of kids now are kind of losing their connection to the outside, so we see it as important to host activities like this to get them interested in their natural environment,” McCarthy said. “Today’s kids are tomorrow’s conservationists.”

There will be a songwriting workshop at 2 p.m. within Wayne National Forest by musician Jesse Henry. The song created during the “Get Outdoors” event will be geared towards nature collaborated on by children and families there for the day.

In addition, today the forest is offering a free trail day with no permit necessary for its mountain and horse trails.

For those looking to break a sweat while enjoying some fresh air, the Marietta Adventure Company will be kicking off its kayak touring season with services all weekend long.

“We’re anticipating a lot of people getting out, taking advantage of all our local outdoor activities,” said owner Ryan Smith. “By offering rentals for our equipment, we hope to encourage people that aren’t ready to buy things of that nature to more easily get out and enjoy some nice weather.”

The Marietta Adventure Company offers half-day and full-day rental options starting at $30 for a four-hour paddle board rental; also offered for rent are kayaks and bicycles. Rental and shuttle services run Tuesdays through Sundays and aid in outdoor fitness which Smith said is “really rejuvenating.”

Those looking for an adrenaline rush, suggested Smith, can also take advantage of state parks in the area to participate in “bouldering.” Bouldering is a scaled-down version of rock climbing without a rope.

“Bouldering in the Wayne National Forest is pretty ideal and then North Bend State Park has a lot of good places as well,” Smith said. “Typically you’d be harnessed to be doing higher rock faces but with bouldering, you’re below 20 feet and you wouldn’t use a rope…just a crash pad.”

Being immersed into an outdoor setting is also the perfect opportunity to teach children the simple appreciation of all the exciting elements bugs, animals, trees and bodies of water bring to the universe, said Rebecca Young, wildlife refuge manager for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Williamstown.

“It’s important for children to learn about clean air and water, to develop a conservation ethic and to understand that we need to support the environment because it truly supports each of us,” said Young.

Young said that starts with parental guidance and can grow into lifetime love of nature.

“For me, my love for nature came from my family,” Young said. “I think simple things like visiting a nature center, talking with our children about the 17-year cicadas that have come out…just doing that will inspire awe in our next generation.”

The refuge center, which is part of a 560-unit system along states including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, offers 3,400 acres of land and underwater habitat and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days per week until Sept. 1.

Today and Sunday the center is offering free fishing, meaning residents can fish without the need for a fishing license, in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day.

On June 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the wildlife service is offering an Endangered Species Festival. This is a free event for all ages with activities including the exploration of an inflatable bat cave. The following day, June 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. a continuation of learning about bats will involve bat box building to celebrate Father’s Day and the great outdoors.

“You can see over 100 different species of fish native to the refuge,” said Ashley Carr, an intern at the wildlife center. “Also, there are hundreds of bird species to be spotted and studied. I really like it here.”