Feeling the need to get outside with your kids, but tired of the same old trips to the pool and afternoons at the playground? Fortunately, we live in a wonderful community for exploring nature nearby. From the tiniest tot to the most adventurous teen, there’s something for everyone! Read on for a few ideas that will help bring a fun close to your summertime adventures in town.
1) Go on a harvest quest — Help your children learn to love veggies and fruits by going on a u-pick harvest quest at a local farm. Check the Market Basket section in The Register-Guard for what’s ripe right now or see the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition’s Locally Grown guide for lists of local farms that have u-pick products.
2) Get wet — On a warm day, put on your water shoes, pack a snack and wade in a river. Try the Willamette River along the bike trails or the small beach at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum. While you’re at the riverside, be sure to have a rock skipping contest and float some stick boats down the river! Be vigilant about safety, of course, and have kids wear life jackets as appropriate. Never leave children unattended near water. Another idea is to check out the new water spray play area in Washington Park at 2025 Washington Street in Eugene.
3) Go to a star party — Attend one of the Eugene Astronomical Society’s free monthly star parties at the College Hill Reservoir, on Lawrence Street between 23rd and 25th in Eugene. Society members will answer your questions about the heavens…and let folks of all ages peek at the sky through cool star-gazing equipment! See www.eugeneastro.org for dates and details.
4) Enjoy outdoor entertainment — Tired of watching movies and listening to music inside? Get your family off the couch and enjoy a free outdoor concert or movie in a local park. For Springfield events, visit Willamalane Parks & Recreation’s site; for Eugene events, go to the city’s website and click on Summer in the City.
5) Go treasure hunting: If your kids like treasure hunts and you have a GPS device (or a friend with one), try geocaching, an outdoor treasure-hunting game played all over the world. To get started, visit the official geocaching website (www.geocaching.com), sign up for a free membership, and enter your zip code. You can then access a list of all the hidden “treasure” caches in your area along with their GPS coordinates. Use these coordinates to go off in search of “treasure”—usually a weather-hardy box filled with little trinkets and other fun stuff. When you find a geocache, take a treasure but plan to leave behind something for the next seeker. This activity takes a bit more work up front, but is lots of fun, especially for older tech-savvy kids.
6) Explore nature nearby — Remember, exploring nature doesn’t have to mean loading the kids in the car and driving for hours to go on a hike. There are plenty of places here in town where you can walk, bike or even boat and feel almost like you’re in the country. Next time you’re at the RiverPlay playground, wander down one of the informal trails below the bike path to the river. It’s lovely and cool in the trees and you’ll get a whole new perspective on the river. If you’re biking along the Willamette River, check out the Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park, where Nearby Nature has its home base. This lovely area is full of trails and fun places to explore. You can lock your bikes in the rack outside the Nearby Nature Park Host Residence. Go to Nearby Nature’s website for maps of the park and ideas for exploring. For water-based fun, rent a canoe in Eugene’s Alton Baker Park. Look for signs near the duck ponds in the main part of the park. For information about more local natural areas and parks, go to the city’s website and click on Parks and Maps in Quick Links.
Beth Stein is the Director of Nearby Nature, a non-profit education group that hosts nature walks, school programs and summer daycamps in local natural areas. For more information, call 541-687-9699 or see www.nearbynature.org. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to email@example.com