Children encouraged to play in the dirt at National Trails Day Expo

Sunday, June 3, 2007 | 2:54 a.m. CDT; updated 8:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Bryce Huey, 2, plays with a snake in the Runge Nature Center booth at the National Trails Day Expo on Saturday while Jamie Leahy, 19 months, watches.

The story below mistated Nadia Navarrette’s title. She is the president of the Hawthorne Chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society.

From bear skins to coloring sheets, the National Trails Day Expo offered children the chance to learn and have fun.

Columbia Parks and Recreation hosted the 15th annual National Trails Day on Saturday. This was the third event in Columbia. Established by the American Hiking Society, the event celebrates trails and the outdoors across America.


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The day kicked off with a 10 kilometer bike ride and a 5 kilometer walk or run starting at the MKT Trail’s Stadium Boulevard entrance.

Several environmental organizations set up tents with educational brochures and activities. The Runge Nature Center, of Jefferson City, sponsored a tent highlighting what Nature Center Naturalist Robin Grumm refers to as “Missouri’s superhero animals.” A few tables down, Suzanne Wright, president of Boone’s Lick Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist, showed children how to identify rodent bones found in owl pellets.

Wright said having events such as National Trails Day is important to a generation of children who she feels are losing touch with the outdoors.

“I think just experiencing nature, digging holes in the dirt or catching bugs, does more for a child than we can even estimate,” she said.

Troy and Janine Gordon, members of the Friends of the Big Muddy, set up a booth for the organization and brought their 3-year-old and 19-month-old daughters to the event.

“I think we sit children in front of the television too much and let that be the entertainment for them,” Troy Gordon said, “Getting them out learning about nature and going on hikes and walks is important. They need to learn so they can learn to use their imagination.”

Susan Dewitt, who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation in New Franklin, quizzed children about trees. The quiz helped children identify trees based on their trunks and leaves.

“The more they know, the better stewards (of the environment) they will be as they grow up,” she said.

“This is just a good way for us to work with all these groups that show a common interest and a good opportunity to bring the kids out and learn from experts,” said Brett O’Brien, Park Natural Resources supervisor.

Nadia Navarrete-Tindall, president of the Missouri Native Plant Society, said it was important for children to go to the event.

“You would think 9-year-old children were too little to think about nature, but they are probably more interested than adults,” Navarette said. “It is more fun for them to see animals or flowers so they can have the experience of touching them and looking at them directly.”

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