Happy trails

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United Way > Volunteers descend on Urban Park to create a new trail

By Tris DeRoma

 Who says you have to be a certain age to start learning, or a certain age to stop? United Way of Northern New Mexico, along with a group of other volunteers recently challenged those notions when they descended on Urban Park last week.
Members of UWNNM, YMCA’s YES (YMCA Earth Service) Corps, Metzger’s Do It Best, County Park officials and residents that just wanted to help out got busy creating a “Born Learning Trail,” a trail designed to spark learning and curiosity in the very young, as well as the very young at heart.
Last Thursday, the group spent many hours installing 10 signs along the walkway between the playground and tennis courts at Urban Park, where they also stenciled designs, shapes and numbers the kids could interact with. The signs are for the adults to read to the kids. Some of them refer to the designs on the trail, and say things like: “Point to the letters painted on the ground. Say the sound that each letter makes…”
According to UWNNM’s executive director, Kristy Ortega, the project was UWNNM’s contribution to United Way’s international “Day of Action,” where United Way chapters all over the world carry out a service project that benefits the local community in some way.
“It’s anything you can do to engage volunteers and better your community. That is the message,” said Ortega.
Their project was to make a “Born Learning Trail.” The United Way has inspired many neighborhood groups to install them throughout the U.S. At the trail’s official opening and ribbon cutting on Friday, many representatives of the organizations that helped build the project came to witness it.
Jeff Humpton, parks director for Los Alamos County was very impressed with the trail, saying it’s sure to get much use.
“We have a lot of kids in this particular area, so I’m sure it will be utilized. It’s a nice asset to the park,” he said.
YES staff member. Lorenza Bronkhorst said it’s been great helping to put the trail together.
“It’s been a lot of fun, we’ve really enjoyed getting the kids involved in a lot of community projects,” she said, adding that the kids in YES Corps have been doing a lot of other things in the community this summer as well, such as helping maintain Los Alamos County’s trail system. “We try to give them opportunities that they haven’t had before,” Bronkhorst said.
On Friday, the trail officially opened up at 10 a.m. to the delight of the many kids present, who were eager to test out the trail. Toddlers from Little Forest Playschool and Family Strengths Network had much fun giving the trail a road test, especially the trail’s “hopscotch” feature.
“It’s nice to have some interactive pieces in the park. The park is always full of people of so many different ages; it’s nice to have something where the parent and the child can interact and extend their learning,” said April Wade, the Little Forest Playschool’s executive director.