by Wendy Fachon and Jeanine Silversmith

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Healthy fun is coming to the Rhode Island Flower Show at the Convention Center in Providence on February 19-22! This year’s theme is “Garden Adventures” and it promises to deliver fun for the whole family. The magnificent gardens not only offer ideas and inspiration for outdoor living spaces, but many will be interactive and engage all ages.

For the first time, a network of organizations committed to environmental education come together to present “A Garden Edventure,” an interactive garden where families can play, create and explore while learning the benefits of getting outside and back to nature. The network, the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA) www.rieea.org, recognizes that interaction with nature is important for the physical, mental and emotional health of children and adults.

The majority of materials used in the garden are re-purposed and native, illustrating that everyday items can be transformed into garden elements with just a little bit of creativity. Upon entering the garden, children can climb through an eight foot tunnel, made from a section of plastic culvert tubing that was destined for the landfill. The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association got hold of the tubing to cover with sod and landscape with plantings and rocks.

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Four additional play areas will surround the tunnel garden. The first is a Fairy House area. The Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, with the help of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, is creating a life-sized fairy house out of recycled pallets. Families can explore inside this structure and then go outside to construct their own fairy houses from natural materials such as sticks and leaves.

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Roger Williams Park Zoo is coordinating efforts on two other play areas, Fort Building and Nature Art. The fourth area will be a Sensory Garden constructed from recycled tires. It will feature herbs, flowers and vegetables, selected to delight the senses. Rhode Island Families in Nature (RIFIN) will be using various sized tires to create several 'tire creatures' to add a touch of whimsy, and Rhode Island College is constructing benches from recycled pallets for visitors to sit while their children play.

This year, RIEEA is also helping to coordinate fun and educational programming for the Kids Adventure Zone on the fifth floor, where storytelling, puppet shows, and animal demonstrations along with ongoing self-guided activities will be happening. Some highlights include the Roger Williams Park Zoo Zoomobile, the Audubon Society of RI’s owl presentations, Save The Bay’s marine touch tanks, garden and flower activities by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England, a Norman Bird Sanctuary puppet show, Netwalking’s Flower Show Scavenger Hunt.

Everyday promises new adventures for families looking to connect more closely with nature during the winter school vacation break. For a complete listing of presentations, visit the Flower Show website. Beyond good fun, this is a tremendous opportunity for Rhode Islanders to learn how to get involved with some of the many environmental organizations that are working together to create a healthier, happier Rhode Island. Perhaps this is matchmaking at its finest, getting people into healthy infatuating relationships with Nature.

Check out this video link for a more in-depth look.

Wendy Fachon is a writer and an independent afterschool educator for Child Opportunity Zones in Pawtucket and North Kingstown. She is also a member of the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association. Learn more at www.netwalking.com.

I’ll admit it. Writing this article is extremely self-gratifying. I’m so proud that RI Families in Nature, the family hiking club I started over five and a half years ago, is partnering with the Roger Williams Park Zoo this October through July to offer new opportunities for families to experience nature and have fun – for free!

065 The Zoo was one of 30 recipients of a Nature Play grant, which was developed by the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) through a special gift from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. This grant will allow us to offer free nature based play experiences in various parks, playgrounds, preserves, and other properties that are off zoo grounds – but easy to get to!

DSC_0003We’re calling them "Family Nature Play Dates" and they will include a series of structured and unstructured activities focused on a particular wildlife theme such as butterflies or nocturnal animals. Best part is that you’ll have tons of family fun – outside – for an hour or so. If you’re not already aware of the many, many benefits of spending time in nature, they will truly amaze you (click here to learn more).

IMG_2351_editedAnd as a bonus, you will earn large amounts of points that you can use to through the Zoo’s Nature Swap. Participants in the program bring in natural "found" items to collect points for swapping with items in their collection. To learn more, go to their website.

DiamondHill2Our first Family Nature Play Dates are October 16 and 26 (these will be the same program). For details, check the Kidoinfo calendar or join RI Families in Nature  or the Zoo’s Nature Swap.

See you outside!

RI Great Outdoors PursuitDiscover Rhode Island parks and enjoy free and low-cost summer activities. Rock climb, fish, hike, bike, kayak, and win great prizes!

Participate in the RI Great Outdoors Pursuit, a wonderful program designed to help families enjoy the Ocean State’s recreational parks. Each “pursuit” or event involves fun outdoor activities, challenges, and children’s games, as well as music, food, informational exhibits, raffles, and more. Think “Party in a Park.”

Four of the events take place on specific days once a month from May through August. In addition, there are a number of self-guided events that you can do on your own. You register and participate as a minimum two-member team with at least one adult and one child.

Your team will earn points for each event you attend. The more pursuits, the more points you earn. And the more points, the better your chances are to win prizes.

Don’t miss the fun! This year's Pursuit kicks off on Sunday, May 18 at Lincoln Woods and continues into August. Learn more here. http://www.riparks.com/RIOutdoorsPursuit/

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Sunday, May 11, as we explore this area together.

My very first hike as a Rhode Islander almost 9 years ago was at the Audubon’s Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge. My husband and I, pre-kids, loved the wonderful scenery and hiking.

FishervilleWoodedPathFast forward a few years and our kids love it, too! Every time I visit I am wistfully reminded of my introduction to hiking in the Ocean State — and what a great introduction it was.

The 937 acres of Fisherville Brook are loaded with great features such as bridges, a pond, a waterfall, an historic cemetery, a meadow, bird boxes, and more. The easy-to-follow paths and variety of trails and distances are great for kids of all ages.

For more information about Fisherville Brook, click here.

See you outside!

FishervilleBridgeThe Details

Where: Audubon’s Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: yes
Hours: Dawn to dusk

For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

photo credit: Jeanine SilversmithFishervilleBench

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Sunday, April 13, as we explore this area together.

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Blackstone Park, along with the 1.6 mile long Blackstone Boulevard greenway, is maintained by The Blackstone Parks Conservancy in partnership with the Providence Parks Department and the Department of Public Works.

The 45-acre gem, located within the city of Providence, contains meadows, woodlands, two ponds, wildlife and views of the Seekonk River.

BlackstoneStairsBut there’s even more! A giant staircase, wide paths and conservation areas make this a very kid-friendly trail. You’ll all love exploring the 1-2 miles along the easy trails.

BlackstoneMeadowPark near the intersection of Angell and Paterson Streets. You’ll find the trail just south of the playground on Paterson Street.

BlackstoneConsAreaFor more information about Blackstone Park and the Blackstone Park Conservancy, click here.

See you outside!

The Details
Where: Blackstone Park
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: no
Hours: Dawn to dusk

For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

photo credit: Jeanine Silversmith

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Saturday, December 7th, as we explore this area together.

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Maxwell Mays, a folk artist best known for his paintings of historic Rhode Island, was also an environmental conservationist and philanthropist. He donated 295 acres of land to Audubon as part of his life estate and, in October 2011, it opened as the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge.

unnamed-1 The Carr Pond trail is easy to follow and winds through an open meadow, forests, wetlands, streams, and an historic cemetery to the beautiful 11-acre Carr’s Pond. For a longer hike, follow the Hammitt Hill trail to the top of Hammitt Hill.

If you approach Carr’s Pond very quietly and stay a while, you might be able to catch a glimpse a river otter or beaver, both make their home in the pond. There are also many types of fish and invertebrates.

We will meet in the parking lot at 11:00am and begin our hike promptly at 11:15am. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water and dress for the weather (in layers and with proper hiking boots or sturdy sneakers).

For more information about the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge, click here. http://www.asri.org/refuges/maxwell-mays-wildlife-refuge.html

See you outside!

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The Details

Where: Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: none
Hours: dawn to dusk

For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website. http://www.rifamiliesinnature.org

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

Photo Credits: Jeanine Silversmith

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Saturday, November 16, as we explore this area together.

T Mooney/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy’s Carter Preserve boasts more than 5 miles of well-marked hiking trails through rare pitch pine and scrub oak forests and a 35 acre grassland. As one of the largest protected areas in RI, it contributes to an 11-mile corridor of open space running from the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge to the state’s Carolina Management Area.

Jeanine Silversmith

The Narragansett Trail from the Old Mill Road entrance leads to the grassland. There are nest boxes to check out and at this time of year, maybe some leftover milkweed pods. If you turn around here, it’s about a mile walk. If you hike around the field, it’s about 2 miles total.

Jeanine Silversmith

If you visit in the spring or early summer, you can return via the utility line which leads to vernal pools and look for tadpoles and other critters.

We will meet in the parking lot at 1:00pm and begin our hike promptly at 1:15pm. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water.

For more information about the Carter Preserve, click here.

See you outside!

The Details
Where: Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: none
Hours: dawn to dusk
For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

photo credits: Top photo (T Mooney/The Nature Conservancy). Middle and bottom photo (Jeanine Silversmith).

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Monday, October 14, as we explore this area together.

Once a former ski slope, the summit of Diamond Hill offers spectacular views of the Blackstone Valley and a fairly gradual climb for young and older kids to enjoy. Autumn is my favorite time to visit this park; each time I drive up to Cumberland for this hike I hope I’ll catch a “good foliage day”!

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Follow the paved path from the parking lot; it will lead you to a wooded path that comes right up against Fisher Road. Continue on the path to get to the summit (easily identified by the old ski lift footings). Return the same way, or take one of several paths to extend your hike. Just pay extra attention along the way; the trails here are unmarked and I’ve yet to find a map of the park.

DiamondHill2Diamond Hill is a great place to picnic and little ones will love checking out the small pond near the old band shell. In addition, from now until the end of October, you’ll see structures and signage for Haunted Hill, an annual scare fest that is best left to the older kids and adults.

We will meet in the parking lot at 10:30am and begin our hike promptly at 10:45am. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water, and/or a picnic lunch.

DiamondHill3For more information about the history of Diamond Hill, click here.

See you outside!

The Details
Where: Diamond Hill Park
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: port-a-johns
Hours: dawn to dusk
For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

photo credit: Jeanine Silversmith

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Sunday, September 22, as we explore this area together.

Narragansett’s beaches are known throughout and beyond RI, but there are lots of wonderful natural places to explore as well. Take, for example, Canonchet Farm.

BK005_cBillKrul-540x240Within the 174-acres of Canonchet Farm, there are both salt and fresh water marshes, an old quarry, and Pettaquamscutt Cove — plus a rich cultural and natural history. image27_cFCFIn addition, the trail system is well-maintained and the Friends of Canonchet Farm, the non-profit founded in 2007 that hopes to manage Canonchet Farm in cooperation with the Town of Narragansett, are always happy to answer questions and help you out.

Tom Fortier, a naturalist, arborist and forensic forester, will lead the easy 1.5 mile hike along the well managed trails and highlight some of Canonchet Farm’s unique features as part of the RI Land Trust Days.

We will meet on Anne Hoxsie Lane, directly across the street from the Narragansett Town Beach South Pavilion, and start our hike promptly at 1:00pm.  Be sure to bring bug spray, as well as plenty of snacks and water.BK010_278x320_cFCF

For more information about Canonchet Farm, click here.

See you outside!

The Details
Where: Canonchet Farm
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: no
Hours: dawn to dusk
Website: Friends of Canonchet Farm website. http://canonchet.org/
For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.
Photo credit: First photo  © Bill Krul and second and third photos © Friends of Canonchet Farm.

Go it alone, or join RI Families in Nature on Sunday, August 25, as we explore this area together.

Whenever I mention Neutaconkanut Hill, people usually look at me funny and then ask me two questions: “How do you say that?” and “Where is it?” Given that “the Hill” is one of my very favorite places to hike in Rhode Island, I’m always happy to answer.

GreatStairs

Neutaconkanut (pronounced nu-ta-kon-ka-nut) Hill is in the city of Providence. That’s right. Several miles of trails through beautiful forests and fields, with spectacular views of the city and a rich history, right smack in the middle of the most densely populated area of our largest city. With 88 acres and rising to almost 300 feet above sea level, the Hill is the largest expanse of natural woodland and has the highest point in Providence.

KingMonument

The Narragansett Indians lived on the Hill for hundreds of years before Roger Williams obtained the land and named it Providence. The King family purchased the land in the 1800s, the last remaining member to donate it to the city for all to enjoy. Unfortunately, use of the Hill declined and eventually it became a place for illegal and otherwise undesirable activity until a concerned group of neighbors formed the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy (NHC) in 2005. Since then, NHC has partnered with the Providence Parks Department as well as other agencies, organizations and educational institutions to clean, revitalize and manage the park. (In fact, when we hike on August 25, we’ll see Providence College students in action, saving the forest for all to enjoy.)

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And boy, what a job the NHC has done! The well maintained trails pass through beautiful woodlands, meadows, valleys, geological outcroppings, stone walls, brooks, and even a monument to the King family. NHC hosts various family events throughout the year and there is a skate park, playground, and fields to enjoy — all accessible via the RIPTA bus line!

CityView

But the crowning jewel is the spectacular views of the City and nearly a quarter of the State from the bandstand remains in the Meadow.

See you outside!

The Details
Where: Neutaconkanut Hill
Cost: Free
Bathrooms: no, but plenty of businesses are nearby
Hours: dawn to dusk
Website: Neutaconkanut Hill website. www.nhill.org
For more information, including directions: visit the RI Families in Nature website.

Rhode Island Families in Nature Hike: Join Rhode Island Families in Nature every month for a different hike created by and for families who want to spend more time outdoors, explore Rhode Island’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature.

Photo # 1,2, 4 (credit: Jeanine Silversmith). Photo #3 (credit: Neutaconkanut Hill)

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