Children scampered up and down the paths at Peavy Arboretum on Saturday with their parents trailing behind them. They netted crayfish and newts at Randall Pond, roasted marshmallows at the Forestry Club Cabin, fished at Cronemiller Lake, and learned all along the way about animals, native plants and how to responsibly walk the trails.
“With all of the families and diversity (of activities), everyone can find something to do here,” Robin Galloway, a 4-H leader with Oregon State University Extension Service, said Saturday as she guided a family on a hike.
The OSU College of Forestry and OSU Extension Service for Benton and Linn counties hosted the second annual Get Outdoors Day at Peavy Arboretum on Saturday, aiming to introduce families to the outdoors by showcasing the gateway to OSU’s vast McDonald Forest trail system.
“The object is to get first-time users out to the forest,” said Jody Einerson of OSU Extension Service in Benton County. “This year, we had a real push to get the underserved so we worked through the health department in both Corvallis and Albany, to try to get their clientele to come out, and we provided buses for that.”
The event drew 570 visitors — about 100 of them arriving by bus from Albany and Corvallis.
Hiking the trails, feeling the sun on your face and connecting with nature is inherently good, Einerson said — and healthy.
“With all the people spending all of their recreation time inside looking at a computer and playing (video) games — it’s a way to get them outside and get them active to a more healthy lifestyle and just to enjoy what Oregon has to offer,” she said.
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Parents said they learned about the free event through their children’s schools, word-of-mouth and the health departments.
Even when the kids weren’t identifying birds, playing weed bingo or making trail mix at the stations, they were entertained by chasing butterflies, crowding around a harmless snake or racing each other up the trail.
Six-year-old Ayden Decker and his 4-year-old sister, Alanna Decker, inspected everything around them — the plants, trees, rocks and insects — as Galloway guided them and their mom, Summer Rohde, along a trail.
“Look at that!” Alanna exclaimed, looking ahead to a dead tree, followed with, “What’s that?” as she pointed as small purple and white flowers.
Ayden already knew that the holes in the bark of a tree were caused by woodpeckers looking for bugs, but he didn’t know what poison oak looked like until Einerson pointed it out.
They had just begun their trip to the arboretum, their mom said, and they had already learned a lot about plants and animals.