Get outdoors and connect with the refuge this summer

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2008

The Kenai Peninsula is often referred to as "Alaska in Miniature" since it has many of the fantastic outdoor things Alaska has to offer in an easily accessible location. Unfortunately, those of us who live in Alaska sometimes take for granted that this playland is in our own back yards. There is a national trend of adults and children spending more and more time indoors, and less and less time outdoors. With this decrease in outdoor time, there is a disconnect between the American people and nature.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expanding its efforts to connect people with the natural world in such a way that they'll care about and thus care for America's natural resources. The service has adopted a program called "Connecting People with Nature: Ensuring the Future of Conservation" as one of its six national priorities. Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall has stated, "If we want conservation in the future, we have to have future conservationists."

Being outdoors is important to our development -- intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. Refuges across the United States are making efforts to find new and creative ways to draw people of all ages back to the outdoors and the Kenai Refuge is no exception. We are expanding our efforts to connect our community with the outdoors. We invite you to join us for the following free refuge-sponsored outdoor events and activities this summer. Please note some require pre-registration.

* Whistles and Backpacks on the Keen-Eye Trail: This is a Trail Explorer program for ages 4 and up at the refuge headquarters in Soldotna. Participants fill out a trail worksheet while learning about boreal forest and wetland habitats and receive a whistle upon completion. Two themed backpacks ("Introduction to Birding" and "Get A Closer Look") will also be available for family checkout during normal visitor center hours, every day June through August, to explore the surrounding trails.

* Celebrate Wildflower Fun Day (June 20) and Wild Berry Fun Day (Aug. 15): These two community special events take place at the Environmental Education Center. These events will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include displays, games, craft activities, theme inspired snacks, and guided half-mile wildflower or wild berry identification walks on the Keen-Eye trail. Pre-registration is required for the guided walks.

* Guided Fitness Walks: Join us for 1 1/2 hour walks on the 2-mile Centennial Trail located at our headquarters in Soldotna. Walks start at 2 p.m. on June 26, July 15, and August 19 and pre-registration is required. These walks will combine topics such as plant and berry identification, trail fitness, orienteering, and more.

* Get Outside and Get Dirty Summer Camp: For the first time, the refuge is offering a weeklong summer camp July 28 through Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. For this trial summer, it will only be available to students going into fourth or fifth grade this fall. The majority of the week will be spent outdoors learning about orienteering, plants and animals, and habitats. Through trail exploration, crafts, science experiments, digital photography, journaling and more, we hope to inspire kids to learn about nature's wonders. There will be a required supply fee and pre-registration.

* Campfire Programs: Held at Hidden Lake Campground Fridays and Saturdays beginning June 20 and lasting through the end of July, and also the first three Saturdays in August. Natural history programs start at 8 p.m. at the amphitheatre.

* Discovery Hikes with a Park Ranger: Held on Burney's Trail at Hidden Lake Campground at 1 p.m. on June 28, July 12, and Aug. 2. These hikes are moderate (1.2 miles). Call Jetta Minerva at 260-2811 to pre-register for these hikes.

* Borrow a Fishing Pole for Free: The Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office, Kenai Community Library, and Trustworthy Hardware have created a Fishing Rod Loan Program. The Program is for kids aged 16 and under, and will provide fishing rods (for trout and salmon) that can be checked out from the Kenai library -- just like checking out a library book! All you need to do is complete a registration form at the library, have a parent or legal guardian sign for the rod and head out to go fishing.

For directions, pre-registration, or additional program information please call Michelle Ostrowski at 260-2839 or e-mail You can also e-mail Michelle to be added to our event notification list. Special youth group programs (scouts, boys and girls club, daycares, etc) are available upon request. Call for more information.

It's time to start planning your outdoor summer fun. We invite you to join us for a refuge sponsored event or get out on your own to camp, fish, hike or watch wildlife on your National Wildlife Refuge.

Michelle Ostrowski is the education specialist at the refuge and has assisted with educational school groups and outreach since 1997. She is one of 10 Alaska Refuge Employees on the national Fish and Wildlife Service Connecting People With Nature Working Group which seeks to get more people outdoors.

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Previous Refuge Notebook articles can be viewed on our Web site, You can check on new bird arrivals or report your bird sighting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Birding Hotline at 907-262-2300.

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