"It's just a great place for kids to explore," said Forest Service naturalist Karen Maher, who will lead the program. "Ponds, steams, marshes, woodlands, wildlife, hiking trails; there is so much to do in that area, and with kids needing more options for outdoor summer activities, it just seemed like perfect fit."
Maher, who developed the idea while working at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, designed the program around a series of weekly themes: Wilderness and Survival, Wild Wonderful Water, Plants and their Products, Birds and Mammals, and Geology and Glaciers. Each theme incorporates different activities. For instance, Wilderness and Survival weeks will include map and compass reading and shelter building. Birds and Mammals weeks will feature tracking and making casts of tracks, birdwatching basics and habitat studies.
Sessions are fro 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Fridays are a half-day, finishing with a picnic lunch for parents and kids. Groups will meet at the new Forest Service facilities on Back Loop Road near the NOAA weather station. No camp on July 4, so that week will extend into Saturday, July 8. Transportation from Downtown is available.
Discovery Southeast sees the Crystal Lake camps complementing the latter's popular and well-established Outdoor Explorers program for children 9 - 12.
According to Discovery Southeast Executive Director Dana Owen, the organization was looking for a way to expand their summer offerings when the Forest Service approached them.
"The Crystal Lake camps are perfect for families needing more options, or for those older kids who have been with us for two or three years and are looking for something a little different or more structured," Owen said.
This summer's Outdoor Explorers program offers six weeks of camps for children 7 - 9 and two weeks for the older group. Openings were available for both Crystal Lake and Outdoor Explorers at press time.
Parents may register their children for either program through the Discovery Southeast Web site at www.discoverysoutheast.org or by calling 463-1500. Cost is $185 per week for non-members and $155 for Discovery Southeast members. A limited number of scholarships are available.