When I lived in Portland, the city Parks and Rec department offered walks for parents and preschoolers on Fridays at 10am. They called them “Lady Bug Walks” and they were held at a different City park each week. The children were allowed to borrow a lady bug backpack for the walk that was filled with things to explore nature. They were simple things--a spoon to dig in the dirt, a container to hold bugs, a magnifying glass to see details--simple, but perfect for encouraging the exploration of nature. My daughter and I loved going on these walks as the naturalists who were always able to engage our imagination and teach us something new.
When we moved to Bend, I was looking for a similar experience and discovered the Deschutes Land Trust offered family-focused walks with outstanding volunteer naturalists at Land Trust Preserves. The only thing missing was the backpack...although the butterfly nets got great reviews from our daughter who in one short hike became a butterfly catching and identifying expert!
Last fall I took a friend of mine on a Land Trust walk at Whychus Canyon Preserve and we started talking about the value of getting kids out to experience the preserves as part of their conservation education. She is a mother of two 13-year-old boys and mentioned that they had grown very concerned about the state of the environment and the degradation humans have caused. She was talking with them about ways to make a difference, and remembered the experience she had taking a class at Sara Bella Upcycled here in Bend. Watching how discarded plastic can be turned into functional art inspired her. She realized that the work the Land Trust is doing also inspires her and, in fact, she took her family back to Whychus Canyon to experience the preserve again.
As we hiked along that day, we hatched an idea to get Sara Bella to make backpacks for the Deschutes Land Trust to use for kids on their walks. We saw an opportunity to bring two aspects of environmental protection together to help educate and inspire our community. My friend generously offered to underwrite the cost and I agreed to work with these two amazing groups to make it happen.
And so the Land Trust launches its 2013 hike program with some new tools to help kids explore the Preserves and discover the joy of having access to protected nature. Take a look at these beautiful little backpacks and come test them out at one of the upcoming walks just for kids and families. I hope that using an upcycled backpack in a setting as beautiful as Camp Polk Meadow Preserve or the Metolius Preserve will make you proud of the community we are and will inspire you to give back. And, if you wish you could take the backpack home, visit Sara Bella soon!
~ Gillian Ockner