Families stopped by the booths from Clifty Falls State Park and Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge to touch a snake, a fur pelt from a raccoon, or a bobcat skull. They learned about birds with Oak Heritage Conservancy and Heritage Trail Conservancy, and took a challenge to spend more time outside from Purdue Extension.
Families stopped by the booths from Clifty Falls State Park and Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge to touch a snake, a fur pelt from a raccoon, or a bobcat skull. They learned about birds with Oak Heritage Conservancy and Heritage Trail Conservancy, and took a challenge to spend more time outside from Purdue Extension.
The Oak Heritage Conservancy celebrated the end of the Park Hop last week with a gathering at Heritage Park.

More than 70 young people participated in a countywide scavenger hunt in which they used a tip sheet that listed 21 parks families could visit to answer clues about the park to prove they had visited.

“The goal was to get families outside, enjoying our parks and nature preserves,” said Liz Brownlee, executive director of Oak Heritage Conservancy. “We wanted to introduce people to the treasure trove of parks in Jefferson County and be sure they know how much there is to explore and utilize in our community.”

Oak Heritage spearheaded the event along with Clifty Falls State Park, the Jefferson County Public Library, King’s Daughters’ Hospital, Purdue Extension and the Heritage Trail Conservancy.

Young people who participated in the Park Hop were eligible to win the grand prize of one of five Indiana State Park passes. Many of those involved visited more than nine of the 21 parks involved.

Rachel Shaver, a parent and employee at Centerstone, said she turned the Park Hop into a field trip for young people involved with Centerstone. On this field trip, the young people visited 13 different parks and nature preserves in one day.

“I wanted to get the kids out and about in the community,” said Shaver. “And I wanted them to spend some time away from their digital devices. We made a day of it with a picnic.”

Shaver said she plans to keep using the Park Hop as a structure for field trips, even though the official Park Hop is done for this year.

Girls Inc. also made the Park Hop into a series of field trips where they visited a different park each day of Spring break. This helped the members have a chance to visit all 21 parks in Jefferson County.

“The whole idea of the Park Hop is that once families and kids visit a park, they’re more likely to go back,” said Brownlee. “Several parents told me on Saturday that they had never been to Webster Woods Nature Preserve. That’s one of our preserves, and it has a nice little walking trail through the woods that’s perfect for young families. But it’s only perfect if people know it’s there for them to enjoy. The Park Hop means we can share the preserve with more people, and be of use.”