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Rhode Island Eco-Adventures for Families

by Wendy Fachon

Without traveling far, Rhode Islanders can find a wide variety of family adventures. Local environmental organizations offer many opportunities to play it cool in July, while also helping families learn more about the state’s ecology. Here are a few ideas:

Meet Up with Other Families to Hike. The Westerly Land Trust is leading a Healthy Hike at 10 a.m.,  Saturday, July 1, at Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park, in Westerly (intersection of Kettle Close & Newbury Drive). Being active in nature has been scientifically proven to improve mental, physical and social health, and this one-hour event happens the first Saturday of every month as part of the National Park Rx Initiative. Learn more at WesterlyLandTrust.org. 

Rhode Island Families in Nature’s free monthly hike is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m., July 22, at Pulaski State Park, 151 Pulaski Rd, Chepachet. Located within the 4,000-acre George Washington Management Area, the 100-acre Pulaski Memorial Recreation Area is a “day use” facility. Bring a picnic lunch and swim gear to enjoy a refreshing dip in 13-acre Peck Pond after the hike. Learn more at RIFamiliesInNature.org.

Make an Ocean Commotion. Audubon’s Free Family Fun Day, sponsored by Citizens Bank, will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, July 1, at the Education Center, in Bristol. Enjoy a shoreline hike, nature stories, animal discoveries, crafts and more. No need to register. Check out Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s July calendar at asri.doubleknot.com/openrosters/Calendar.asp.

Paddle the Waters. The Kayak Centre, in Wickford, Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures, in Westport, and Queen’s River Kayaks, in Usquepaugh, are among the list of businesses around the state that offer rentals, classes and guided tours. Compare gear, rental rates and tour options at the Land Trust Council Blueways and Greenways website ExploreRI.org.

Go Camping. The State of Rhode Island Division of Parks and Recreation operates five campgrounds across the state. Burlingame State Park in Charlestown is 3,100 acres of rocky woodland that surrounds Watchaug Pond. It has a swimming beach and a nearby Department of Environmental Managment boat launch for boating and fishing. Fishermen’s State Park in Narragansett offers a ‘seaside village’ atmosphere. One of its most attractive features is its close proximity to popular state beach areas. George Washington State Campground and Management Area in Glocester covers 4,000 acres. For rates and amenities visit RIParks.com.

Travel Around on a Farm Scavenger Hunt. The Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association sponsors this annual event with 24 local farmers and orchards. Print out a game board off the website or pick one up at a visitor’s center, chamber of commerce, farm stand or farmer’s markets. Visit each place to collect stickers and collect enough to win a prize. Learn more at RIFruitGrowers.org.

Hunt for Insects. Join an Audubon naturalist at 10 a.m., July 20, at the Audubon Environmental Education Center, in Bristol, and search for insects using a net to comb the edge of the meadow, catching grasshoppers, milkweed bugs, butterflies and more. Participants ages 4 and up will observe insects in bug boxes, use magnifying glasses and field guides to identify them and learn a few awesome insect biofacts. Come dressed in sturdy shoes, long pants, hats and wear sunscreen. Adults must accompany children. Program is weather dependent. Cost: $5/member child, $7/non-member child. Learn more at asri.org.

Explore a Tidepool. Join an Audubon naturalist from 10:30 a.m. to noon, July 22, for a tidepool trek. Discover firsthand the amazing life along the rocky beach of Narragansett Bay. Use nets and magnifying glasses to investigate the species that call the tidal zone home. Dress appropriately and wear shoes that can get wet. Program is weather dependent. Adults must accompany children. Registration is required at asri.org.

Celebrate Governor’s Bay Day – On the July schedule for Rhode Island’s Great Outdoor Pursuit is a free beach day. On Sunday, July 30, park free and enjoy the sand and surf at any one of Rhode Island’s seven beautiful state beaches – Scarborough, Wheeler or Salty Brine in Narragansett; Charlestown Breachway, East or East Matunuck in Charlestown; or Misquamicut in Westerly. Some beaches will have special activities. For more details visit RIParks.com/RIOutdoorsPursuit/events.html.

Fly a Kite at the Newport Kite Festival. Kite-flying enthusiasts will be gathering July 8 and 9 at Brenton Point State Park. Bring a picnic and enjoy the local color. Parking and entry are free. Learn more at Facebook.com/NewportKiteFestival.

Attend a Concert at Ballard Park. This 13-acre preserve, located on Hazard Road in Newport, offers an ideal location to educate children of all ages on the importance of the environment. Environmental educators provide children’s workshops and home school classes on subjects such as geology, ecosystems and habitats. July kicks off Ballard Park’s Music Month with Saturday performances by Folsom at 7 p.m., July 12; The Jerry Brown Swinglane Orchestra at 7 p.m., July 19; The Toe Jam Puppet Band at 10 a.m., July 26; and The Ravers at 7 p.m., July 26. Seating is on the grass; bring a blanket or lawn chairs. Concerts are free. Learn more at BallardPark.org.

Take a Bus Tour of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. This 1,040-acre facility in Johnston is home to five major operations: Material Recycling Facility, Small Vehicle Area (for special/bulky item drop-off), Eco-Depot (for household hazardous waste), Compost (for leaf and yard debris) and Central Landfill (for trash). 90-minute MaxBus Full Facility tours are offered for individuals, families or small groups. These free tours are offered on select Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tours scheduled for July are Wednesday, July 12, at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, July 22 at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday, July 26 at 11:30 a.m. Book a reservation at rirrc.org/education-program-support/tours-field-trips.

Most of these organizations are members of the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA). RIEEA members provide environmental literacy programs to support a better Rhode Island. The organization seeks to reach out to a broader range of sectors whose work can be strengthened by the development of an environmentally literate citizenry. Learn more at rieea.org.

Wendy Fachon is the creator of NetwalkRI and teaches urban environmental literacy with the Empowerment Factory. Learn more at NetwalkRI.com and TheEmpowermentFactory.org.