This summer, the Simsbury Public Library, CT successfully facilitated a Family Hike in partnership with the Simsbury Land Trust. Here’s how we did it, and why we think you should consider planning a family hike too.
Health and wellness programs are always a good idea and outdoor programming has exploded in popularity since the pandemic. After 2+ years, we’ve fully mastered outdoor storytimes, outdoor music and movement, and outdoor art programs, but a hiking program was something relatively new to us. Simsbury, CT has an abundance of beautiful natural places, parks, and trails, but some are more visible and well-known than others. Enter the Simsbury Land Trust.
We are fortunate that the Land Trust in our community is an active and thriving organization. Founded in 1976, the Simsbury Land Trust is a federally-recognized, not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. Governed by a volunteer board of trustees elected by the membership, the Simsbury Land Trust currently has over 700 member families. In addition to maintaining the trials, the Land Trust also publishes trail guides, and hosts events and activities. Their mission is “to protect scenic vistas, geological features and farmland that visually define Simsbury’s character and provide healthy habitats for local wildlife and plants,” and part of that goal involves community education and garnering community support. We at the Public Library, are a great partner for the Land Trust, because we can help create awareness and introduce new people to the many free resources that the Land Trust offers.
I reached out to the organization and was connected with Michele, the volunteer who plans children’s and family activities for the Land Trust. We selected a Saturday that would work for both of us and a 9am start time to try to beat the worst of the summer heat. Michele was so helpful in selecting a hike that was well-marked, not too long (a one mile loop) and mostly flat terrain to make it relatively easy for hikers of all ages. I took on the advertising and registration pieces of the program planning.
The day of the hike was hot, but the early start time made it still feel manageable. About 20 people of all ages joined us. It was rewarding to see older adults walk along-side families with school-aged children. Michele was friendly and shared lots of interesting information about the property. She could also provide information for folks about other great public outdoor spaces in town. You could hear people chatting and making new connections as we walked. Everyone finished the hike in good spirits, despite the heat. Overall, the program was a success and we are already planning to do more hikes in the fall.
If you don’t have an organization like the Land Trust in your community, a staff member with an interest in hiking and some knowledge of local trails could easily plan and lead this program as well. Here are some tips for planning a successful hike:
- Be clear about the location and departure time for the hike. Give as specific directions to the trail head or meeting point as possible.
- Be up front about the length, duration, and difficulty of the hike. Including mileage in your promotional materials is helpful.
- Pick a well maintained and well-marked trail. Folks will do the hike at their own pace, and that’s ok! Some people might want to hike ahead and others might lag behind the majority of a group. Picking a well-marked trail will ensure that no one gets lost.
- Encourage people to bring bug spray, sunscreen/sun protection, and water on the hike.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills
This blog post was written on behalf of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee by Stephanie C. Prato. Stephanie is the Head of Children’s Services at the Simsbury Public Library, CT and Co-Chair of the School-Aged Programs & Services Committee.