If you’re already projecting ahead to the long summer days in which your children will complain about how bo-o–o-o-r-r-r-e-e-d they are, you might want to check out all that Medina County Parks have to offer.
In addition to making sure their parks are clean and lovely to visit, there are any number of programs offered free or at a low cost for children and adults.
In years past, our kids have taken advantage of the Young Naturalist camps, which used to be free for ages seven to 12. At one point I was able to take three of my children to the various parks (the programs rotated to different parks each day) and drop them off to be supervised, educated and entertained by park staff for an hour and a half. And, they got a free T-shirt at the end. How can you beat that?
This year (and this might not be the first time) the camps cost $10 apiece, which might make them a little more available to people who are discovering the camps later in the process. For example, registration began April 19, but in years past I think they filled so quickly (c’mon, they were free) that you really had to pounce that first week. Maybe the $10 fee will make people pause before they register. It will likely also make sure the kids who are registered actually show up, so as many children as possible can take advantage of the programs.
Each camp is offered in mornings and afternoons, beginning June 22 and running through July 27. There are a total of nine daytime programs, four evening camps and three nighttime programs, and each week of camp has a different combination of those programs. Your kids like to kiss salamanders, as my sister did when we were children? They are bound to like the “Life in a Stream” program. Are they always looking for an excuse to get wet? They will love the “H2Olympics,” with its plethora of summer games, all involving water, which carry the warning that they will likely get wet. “A Knack for the Night” will introduce children to some nocturnal animals. “Catch of the Day” will let your children try their hand at fishing, with rods and bait provided. Someone else to worm the hooks for them! Hooray!
Here’s the link to the brochure and registration form. Mail it in as soon as you can decide the weeks/camps you prefer. Refunds are given on the registrations as late as May 28. http://www.medinacountyparks.com/uploads/YoungNature10.pdf
For the younger set, check out the Tales for Tots program, geared for children ages 3 to 6. These are one-shot programs offered once a month throughout the year, with registration the month or so prior. Each program is offered four or five times over the course of two days, and are held at a variety of parks throughout the district. Themes include discovering the differences between frogs and toads, studying snakes, exploring the sky and space, and examining animal tracks. Unlike the programs for the older children, parents are required to stay — and who wouldn’t want to see their child get close to a snake for the first time? For more information on these programs, check out: http://www.medinacountyparks.com/uploads/YoungNature10.pdf
Families and individuals of all ages may participate in the Natural Discoveries Hiking Series (http://www.medinacountyparks.com/uploads/NaturalDiscoveries.pdf), which offers 26 guided hikes each year. It’s a nice excuse to check out parks you might not usually visit, and the guides always have some interesting information to share about the rock formations or the types of flowers growing near the path, or can help you look for bluebirds. If you complete five of the hikes, you earn a patch for that year (it’s free).
If you complete 20 hikes over the course of time — including several years — you earn a free hiking staff made of what looks like a varnished tree branch, which I thought was pretty cool. (There’s a form you can have initialed by the guide after each hike.) Or, after completing 10 hikes, you can buy the staff for $10. After five years of hikes, you get a special belt pack, and after 10 years, you get an engraved plaque that attaches to the staff.
I started taking my Girl Scout troop on these hikes a few years ago with the goal of getting each of them that staff, but somehow we lost our drive. Truth be told, a lot of the discussions are geared at a higher level, and those adults who actually own a wildflower guide or who know the difference between a sugar maple and a white oak (and care) will get the most out of it. But, an excuse to hike is never a bad thing in my book.
There are many other programs and events available at the parks, and the district’s Web site is pretty informative, with maps of each park and much more. Bookmark it on your computer so you can check it regularly and have it handy for the first time you hear “there’s nothing to do!” this summer.