February 18th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, printed with permission from the Renville County Register

Recreation for better health and education in the outdoors

In this column over the last two weeks, we have covered how our Renville County Towns use our web sites to promote our towns to prospective visitors. We have done self-exams of how our websites promote our towns and especially the parks and other amenities.

We have discussed briefly how retention and recruitment of people in our towns is vital to keep up our town’s stamina and growth. Our parks are a valuable asset to help retention and recruitment, as are our web sites.

Today we are going to discuss how our parks can be an asset for education and recreation and for betterment of our citizen’s health. As you know, getting people outdoors is a big reason for the existence of parks. But, education is another way our parks can “earn their keep” as they say.

Every town with a park can find something in this discussion that they can do in their parks. As before, Olivia, where I live offers nine parks for the people to enjoy. The following are things that can be done in Olivia’s parks and in the parks of your towns. The water aspects of park activities may not apply to all towns, but others will.

We can teach water quality and quantity, flood control, water conservation in our parks. Native prairie and wetland habitat can be studied. Wildflower identification is fun to do in the parks.

Insect life in our parks and their gardens can be studied. Life in a pond can be a study in itself.

Physical fitness through recreation is achieved in our parks. Basketball, tennis, walking trails, horseshoe courts, Frisbie golf, and kids’ playground equipment help here.

Fishing and “how to fish” can be taught. The making and using of fishing tackle can be done in a park shelter. Seniors can find a reason and a place for fishing right in town with a pond or creek flowing through it.

Outdoor cooking and outdoor survival tactics can be taught in parks. Conservation of all natural resources can be a project to work on in a park. Plant identification, pollinator conservation (bees and butterflies) can be taught in our parks and park gardens.

Canoe and kayak skills can be learned at the park with a pond. Winter survival and fire making woodcraft skills can be studied in our parks. Building emergency snow shelters can be learned here too. Snowshoeing and cross Country Skiing can go on in our parks.

Soil and soil conservation can be learned outdoors in our parks. Art in the parks can be a lot of fun. Teaching and learning outdoor painting can be done in parks. Outdoor photography can be a study in our parks any time of the year. Drying and pressing wild flowers is a great hobby and great for youth groups and can be done in our parks. Studying trees and leaves and forest management are good activities.

Meditation and relaxation go well in some parks with a fairly quiet area around them. Some parks may be able to provide a dirt-bike trail for serious riding. This is a great fitness opportunity. Walking and running on trails in our parks can be very pleasant and provides fitness.

Bringing seniors to our town’s parks for a picnic or if available, for fishing would be good for senior morale.

Gardening or landscaping for wildlife can be demonstrated in our parks. Nature crafts can be taught here. Building bird houses or bird feeders can be done in our park shelters.

Nature story time and reading can be held in our parks. Hunter Safety skills can be taught here. Archery basics can be taught in some parks. Making our own fishing jig fly and fishing techniques can be taught. Making fishing lures like spoons and plugs can be done as skills for the youthful fisherman. Crafts of all kinds and hands-on activities can work well in our parks.

Schools can plan outdoor conservation or environmental excursions to our town’s parks. Youth groups can take advantage of our town’s parks for all kinds of learning and adventures.

Now it is your turn. Begin to survey your parks and what can be done in them. Make plans and carry them out.

  • Do you have a parks and recreation board in your town? Should you have one?
  • Do you feel that parks are an amenity that can be a lure for people to come to your town?
  • Do you have a garden club in your town that can help with some demonstration gardens in your parks?
  • Would Master Gardeners like a role in your parks improvements?

Winter is a great time for planning and discussing the future of your parks. Enjoy the experience of surveying, planning, and improving, along with educational ideas for your parks. Now is the time.


Sven is very interested in economic development of our County and Towns. He suggests that, “If you are going to do something, make it matter; Do what you can with what you have, where you are and don’t chase your productive citizen away.”

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