Brooks Memorial, Yakima Sportsman, and Olmstead Place
June 3, 2015 by Rob
Admittedly, we’ve been really excited about some days on this trek, spending weeks of planning looking forward to the stops, while other days are more push-though days. Today, working through Central Washington was more of a push-through day, and yet even on the days we haven’t been as excited about, we still always seem to find something that peaks our interest. Day 18 started at Brooks Memorial State Park, which has a small campground and day-use area. There wasn’t much there, but before we left we spoke with the Ranger, who informed us they had just punched in a new trail that boasted a great view of the valley. While Megan pushed forward with some editing, I took a quick stroll around the two mile loop, and was surprised yet again by a habitat type I didn’t know existed in Washington State: oak forest.
Inside the park there are a lot of oak trees, yet the canopy is still mostly pine, like most of Washington. However, as we started heading north, leaving the park, there were hillsides covered in nothing but oaks. Time and time again, Megan and I have been struck by the diversity of our state.
Next, we stopped at Yakima Sportsman State Park which combines the amenities of a city park (picnic areas, play structures, green lawns, etc.) with a wildlife preserve. There were school groups out enjoying the park, playing games, and walking the interpretive trails. On this project, I have been very impressed with how often we’ve seen the parks used as an educational opportunity. I really hope that continues to be a trend.
Several years ago, I led a class of 7th graders on my first interpretive hike as a Park Ranger, at Riverside State Park. I thought to myself, “when I was in the 7th grade, I had a two-mile walk to school,” so I kept the length of the hike to two miles thinking it would give us enough distance to see some cool things but not overtax anyone physically. The hike went all right for some, but for a third of the class it was a 2 mile death march with a lot of feigned injuries, crying, and an exceptional amount of sweating for a cool spring day. I learned later from an educator who coaches Rangers nationally on how to teach about our natural, historical, and cultural sites that the appropriate length for an interpretive hike is a quarter of a mile! Oops!
I was disappointed at the time, wondering about a society whose children can’t walk more than a quarter of a mile. Yet, since then, I think we’ve seen our culture start to shift toward one that is more active and exploratory. I hope that this increase in outdoor, experiential education, like what we’ve witnessed on this trip, is a barometer for our culture: that we are a people who value our natural spaces and the opportunities they provide.
In fact, it’s as though we’ve collectively decided that we’re not a culture of spectators. Megan and I have already seen friends post photos from parks that we’ve shared on this adventure, and we can’t help but wonder how many people reading this will decide that they want to experience more of our state parks in person. Hopefully lots.
Our last stop of the day was Olmstead Place, which coincidentally is home to an old school house. We spent our afternoon imaging what school was like 85 years ago, and thinking about what school will be like for the next generation.