National Trails Day celebration educates, entertains in Columbia

Sunday, June 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
At Columbia's fifth annual celebration of National Trails Day on Saturday, Greg Blakemore holds his daughter, 19-month-old Mera, as she timidly pets the mailbox turtle at the Runge Conservation Nature Center's animal table. Volunteer Kerra Wieberg explained that there are orange spots on the turtle because it is mating season.

COLUMBIA — Children and adults alike were encouraged to learn about the benefits of parks and trails and their preservation on Saturday during Columbia’s fifth annual celebration of National Trails Day.

A 5K run/walk and a 10K bike ride kicked off the day while a nature expo began at the Stadium Boulevard access point of the MKT trail.

Runners, walkers and bikers took to the trail despite a few raindrops, and many expo volunteers were prepared for the weatherwith tents.

The nature expo featured organizations dedicated to the preservation of and education regarding different aspects of the environment. Each organization had a table with brochures or posters with information about what that group does and how to get involved.

Jefferson City’s Runge Conservation Nature Center, part of Missouri Department of Conservation, was a popular attraction for the visiting children. Their theme was “Go Wild in Your Backyard,” and they showcased live animals: a midland brown snake, a spotted salamander and a mailbox turtle.

“These are all animals you can find in your backyard,” volunteer Kerra Wieberg explained to a group of visitors.

Jennifer Thornhill visited the Runge table with her daughters Alee, 7, and Brecca, 4, after all three ran the 5K. She was pleasantly surprised that her daughters had run almost the entire distance with her.

The Thornhills, from Clark, had been looking for an event like this, Thornhill said. She wanted to do a 5K with her kids and was interested when she found there was a nature expo as well.

“We’ve always been a parks family,” she said. “We’re into nature.”

The volunteers at the Runge booth also helped visitors plant seeds in newspaper pots, which the visitors could take home and plant in their yards.

“We want to encourage people to attract native animals and plant native plants,” volunteer Claudia Arnold said.

The expo featured other organizations such as TreeKeepers, Missouri Community Forestry Council, Columbia Audubon Society and Columbia Aquatic Restoration Project. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Chouteau Grotto and Missouri Speleological Survey also featured information about the prominence and importance of caves in Missouri.

The American Hiking Association established National Trails Day in 1993. It is the only nationwide celebration of trails.

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Ellis Smith June 7, 2009 | 9:52 a.m.

There seems to be some confusion as to what the word "trails" signifies. The trails covered in the article appear to be mainly nature trails, but Missouri historically was the eastern end of two major National Trails: the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon/California Trail, neither of which are mentioned in the article.

The two trails I've cited are well known nationally and have large civilian organizations, as well as statutory federal standing. Santa Fe Trail Association, SFTA, will be holding its biennial symposium in late September at Arrow Rock and Boonville, Missouri. Will there be local media coverage?

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