Swaner EcoCenter offers new sessions to summer programming
With summer around the corner, many people are anxious to find ways to enjoy the warmer weather and explore nature.
The Swaner EcoCenter staff has upped the ante and offers these people a chance to also learn about navigating the great outdoors with its new geocaching program.
Geocaching will complement other activities such as the guided nature walks and extended climbing wall hours this year, said Sally Tauber, the EcoCenter’s director of business development.
"Geocaching is something that we tried in our summer camps and youth education programs," Tauber told The Park Record. "It’s been super exciting and has been something that has worked really well. It’s a great outing. It’s like a scavenger hunt.
We love it. The kids love it."
The Swaner staff came up with the idea to offer some sessions to the general public, she said.
The one-hour sessions will run the second Thursdays and Saturdays of the month beginning Thursday, June 13, and ending Saturday, Aug. 10. Thursday’s sessions will begin at 4 p.m. and Saturday’s sessions will start at 11 a.m.
In addition to these times, the EcoCenter can also schedule private parties.
"If you’re in a club or summer camp, we can also offer times that will work for you," Tauber said. "Some school summer camps like to do field trips, or if you want to do a company retreat, all they have to do is call us and we can work out a session. In fact, we can take private sessions anytime now."
The EcoCenter has seven geocaching, DPS devices to accommodate groups of seven individuals or seven teams of three or four family members or children, Tauber explained.
"We can also fit three more individuals who have their own devices into these groups," she said.
The EcoCenter has assigned a group to explore the Swaner’s 1,200-acre preserve and identify certain items and locations for the geocaching sessions.
"They are designing different courses where some will have to find treasure chests and others will have to find items, plants or other things to see," she said. "Participants will have to go out and find the locations and then mark off the items that they have found or seen. And we’ll have different courses for different days."
The courses will be designed for different levels of geocachers, said the EcoCenter’s executive director Jon Paulding.
"Some will be easier and others will be more difficult," he said. "What participants will do is find the first location and get hints or clues with coordinates about the next location, and so on."
All of the courses will feature of nature-related themes.
"There is a ton of interest in geocaching, especially among kids," Paulding said. "So, we provide a safe environment for people to go out and learn the basic skills for more advanced courses you can find online."
The geocaching sessions are free for Swaner EcoCenter members and $5 for nonmembers.
Reservations are necessary.
Guided nature walks
In addition to the geocaching, the Swaner EcoCenter will begin offering guided nature walks every Saturday beginning June 1 and running through Labor Day.
"The walks will involve a little bit of the Preserve’s history and a little bit of what wetlands are," Paulding said. "It will also include information about what we are doing with the restoration of East Canyon Creek and some easy birding.
"Participants will learn about the role of how the wetlands filter the water that flow into East Canyon Creek and how the water provides a recharge system for the aquifer that feeds the stream and why that’s so important," Paulding said.
An aquifer is a layer of water -bearing rock or gravel , sand , or silt , from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well .
Anyone who joins the nature walks should bring binoculars for birding and wear boots or mudshoes, Paulding said.
As with the geocaching the cost for a nature walk is free for EcoCenter members and $5 for nonmembers. Reservations are necessary.
On May 11, the EcoCenter opened its climbing wall on Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Starting this week, the wall will also be open Thursdays through Labor Day from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.
The idea is to offer climbing opportunities to people who will attend the upcoming summer concert series that will be presented at Newpark plaza by Mountain Town Music.
The plaza is just a few feet away from the EcoCenter’s front doors, Tauber said.
"Many times families will come out to the Newtown plaza early to have dinner and hang out before the show," she said. "So, we thought it would be great if they could come in and climb before the concert starts."
The wall, which features two self-belay devices, is decorated with a wetland-themed scene, Paulding explained.
"As you climb up, you go from the base level with images of the soil and organisms that live there and ascend into different levels with different animals," he said. "It’s like you’re climbing out of the soil up into the wetlands."
More information about the different animals and plants depicted in the scenes can be found on a map located at the wall’s base.
"The map shows the ecosystem you are climbing through," Tauber said. "So, it’s educational as well."
For safety, the EcoCenter has assigned staffers to assist with climbers, Paulding said.
"They will make sure people fit the harnesses correctly, and climbers won’t need a belayer, because we have self-belaying mechanisms on the ropes so they can climb as much as they want."
All climbers need to sign a Climbing Waiver . Additionally, all children under the age of 18 must also sign a Youth Waiver , Paulding said.
Like the geocaching and the nature walks, the cost to climb the wall is free for Swaner members and $5 for nonmembers. Reservations, however, are not necessary.
"We are looking forward to help people learn more about what we do at the Swaner EcoCenter, and at the same time provide some enjoyable recreational activities as well," Tauber said. "We have a lot to offer."
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