Lakeside learning

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, June 4, 2009

A few drops of rain didn’t stop kids from digging in the dirt for worms at Minooka Park Thursday. They also fished, learned about forest and pond ecosystems, and picked up a few tips from Smokey Bear.

It was all part of Lakeside Learning, a youth enrichment program that allowed members of the Chilton County YMCA camp to educate themselves about the environment and have a little summer fun in the process.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Minooka Park Manager Gerald Arrington said. “Seeing these kids catch fish and be so interested in learning made all the hard work worthwhile.”

The event was funded by a $5,000 grant from the CAWACO Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The grant will also improve fishing at the park by funding two commercial grade automatic fish feeders, a good supply of fish feed, fishing equipment, educational signs and lake fertilization.

Now, kids who go to the park to fish will be able to rent rods and reels and dig for their own bait in a worm bed stationed near the lake.

The grant requires a $5,000 match from the county, consisting entirely of volunteer hours.

“We won’t be out a penny in cash,” Arrington said.

County Extension coordinator Gay West said the Extension’s goal was to promote 4-H and youth development.

“This gave us an opportunity to provide an educational program about the environment for our local youth, and for them to be exposed to the new park and how beautiful it is,” she said.

Approximately 80 people attended the Lakeside Learning event, including YMCA counselors and staff.

YMCA Executive Director Rachel McKinnon thanked all the groups and individuals that allowed the children to participate.

“It was a great experience. The children enjoyed themselves,” she said.

Agencies and groups that contributed to the program were: Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Water Watch, CAWACO, Master Gardeners, Chilton County Chamber of Commerce, Chilton County Industrial Development, Chilton County Natural Resources Council, Lower Coosa Clean Water Partnership, Lake Mitchell Home Owners and Boat Owners, Minooka Park staff and friends of Minooka Park.