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Stillwaters continues to encourage discovery

KINGSTON — In an effort to illuminate the beauty and excitement of the great outdoors, the Stillwaters Environmental Center has created day packs full of activities, maps and guides to tempt residents and visitors to explore the center’s natural habitats.

The Discovery Packs, housed in sturdy canvas bags for easy transportation and wear and tear, are now available to rent at Stillwaters for $5 and include fun and games for the whole family.

“We have three different packs people can rent out, nature/pond, birds and trees/plants,” said Stillwaters volunteer coordinator Kari Golden. “They all have binoculars, greeting letters from Stillwaters, maps and they all have games. Each of the packs has guides that are specific to that pack.”

Besides the features the packs share, they differ in games and equipment, which are specific to the bag’s theme. For example, the nature/pond pack includes bug boxes, plastic see-through containers, with a magnifying lid that allows the observer to view the bugs up close. It also has dip nets and tweezers. The bird pack includes bird guides and maps of where to find certain species.

“They are kind of sort of meant to guide you,” Golden said. “It doesn’t have to lead specific activities, we’re hopeful the person will take it and run with it.”

The packs were bought with state and federal grants, as well as donations brought in during Stillwaters’ auction in December. People who attended it were able to essentially buy one of the packs, funding a bag of learning for the public to use.

“I think one of the big reasons we wanted to get them was because our area is lacking in staff being able to lead spontaneous walks for small groups and families,” said Stillwaters Administrative Director Naomi Maasberg. “People who show up and want to do something outdoors are expecting a walk or an educational walk. We don’t have the staff to be able to do that.”

Small groups such as Boy or Girl Scouts will be able to rent a pack and have a program in a bag, she said. If the group is larger, they can rent two packs to accommodate all of the participants. This is one of the biggest needs of the center, providing information to curious visitors, which has been difficult because of the lack of staff. And the packs are not just for families or groups with children, but for individuals or pairs interested in bird watching or learning more about the environment around them, Maasberg said.

“(Aug. 6) we had kids and families come out and try the packs and they really had fun,” Golden said. “These packs can be adapted for all times of year because not everything can be seen in the spring. Different bugs and plants come out during the other seasons as well.”

The packs may be expanded or changed after a while to keep them interesting and appropriate for the season, Maasberg said. Stillwaters workers are also looking at expanding to a beach pack and others in the future that will introduce other habitats.

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