Written by Patrick T. Sullivan, The Courier-Journal
Seven-year-old Haylee Perrin loves to collect bugs.
“Whatever I find, I pick up,” said Haylee, who lives near Paducah, Ky.
While visiting her aunt in Louisville, she found a new place to explore for bugs — the community garden in Miles Park.
Haylee and 14 other children spent last week digging, collecting bugs and planting vegetables in the garden as part of the Parklands of Floyds Fork’s inaugural “Dig It!” summer camp.
The weeklong gardening program is the first of three summer camps the Parklands will hold this summer. It will also hold camps in July that focus on art and creek wildlife. The camps are geared toward children and help uphold the Parkland’s commitment to educating its visitors, said Dan Jones, chairman and CEO of 21st Century Parks, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Parklands.
“Education was one of the goals we set for the project from the beginning and camps are a logical way to do that,” Jones said.
The park system’s new PNC Achievement Center serves as a base for the camps, said Kim Allgeier, the park’s education and interpretation manager. The 3,500-square-foot welcome center opened in Beckley Creek Park in February and features interactive maps and classrooms equipped with microscopes, fossils and dioramas.
More than 7,000 people have visited the center since it opened, and Allegeier said she recognized several campers and their parents from their time at the center.
The “Dig It!” camp focuses on making its participants aware of the natural resources available to them, said interpretive park ranger Hannah Graham, who designed and led the camp.
The children learned about native and invasive plants and planted a pizza garden — a plot that features pizza ingredients like onions, peppers and tomatoes.
“It’s important for them to connect with nature and know how to use it,” Graham said.
The “Art in the Park” camp, to be held July 8-12, will allow campers entering the first or second grade to use Beckley Creek Park to explore artistic mediums and create artwork using natural materials.
Campers will take to Floyds Fork to explore its fish, insects and aquatic wildlife as part of “Camp Creek.” The camp is open to children entering the third or fourth grade and will be held July 15-19.
The camps come amid growing popularity in educational programs at Miles Park and Beckley Creek Park. The PNC Achievement Center was the destination of several field trips during the school year and a children’s camp over spring break.
The camps and field trips are part of an “ambitious plan” to get children involved, Jones said. The park system is considering doing more specialized programming and honing in on certain age groups. There have also been discussions about working with Jefferson County Public Schools for afterschool programs, Jones said.
Jones said Parklands officials are also looking at more ways to engage teenagers and adults. Officials have studied parks and programs in Maine and Wisconsin to learn how to educate more people, Jones said.
“We want the parks to be well-used and well-loved,” Jones said. “The more ways we can find people to use them, the more they’ll enjoy them.”
• To register for the “Art in the Park” and “Camp Creek” summer camps, go to theparklands.org/outdoorclassroom/camps.
• See a video about the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork summer camps and more photos at courier-journal.com/neighborhoods.
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