County facilitating ‘nature club’ to get families outdoors

       Concerned about modern, stay-at-home kids, El Paso County's nature centers hope to start a “family nature club.”

In the midst of the annual sheep shearing at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site's summer opening day June 5, two shorn sheep in the Rock Ledge herd mix with the four unshorn in a pen outside the barn.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “It's kind of a new initiative to get families involved in the outdoors,” said Todd Marts, director of the Bear Creek and Fountain Creek nature centers.
       The first meeting to discuss the club plan will be Saturday, June 26 at 10 a.m. at the Bear Creek Nature Center, 245 Bear Creek Road. Marts believes there is interest. “We've already collected hundreds of names from people signing up through special events and e-mails, and we're inviting them all to the event,” he said.
       The general public is also invited. There is no fee, but reservations are requested at 520-6387.
       The proposal stems from a few outside sources - nationally, the “No Child Left Inside” (a take-off on the “No Child Left Behind” educational initiative) and family nature club movements; and statewide, the Colorado Kids' Outdoor Bill of Rights that has been promoted by Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien. The thinking is that children getting outside more will be healthier as a result (child obesity is part of the concern) and will develop an appreciation for nature that in turn will inspire them to carry on preservation efforts set in motion by preceding generations.
       Marts cautioned that the county's budget limits how much the nature centers can spend on the nature club effort. The centers can offer some activities, but basically how much the club does will be up to those involved. “Facilitate is a good word for what we're doing in getting it started,” he said. ““Hopefully, it develops into lifetime friendships of people who are going outdoors.”

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