Education at the water’s edge

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Editor’s Note: This is the third story of a three-part series highlighting the educational programming at Standley Lake Regional Park in Westminster. The first story focused on the history and the second story focused on recreation.

Whether it’s learning about bald eagles or the importance of snake awareness, there are a variety of educational opportunities at Standley Lake.

This summer alone featured many free programs for children and adults offering the public a glimpse into the history, nature and joys of the Westminster park.

As an urban park, Standley Lake is a place where people in the city can leave the traffic and street lights behind, and enter into a world of nature without having to drive miles and miles to get there. Taking advantage of the close proximity to the city, Holly Walters, senior ranger at the park, said it’s a great opportunity for park staff to educate the community on the outdoors. She said one of the goals of the programs is to help people be aware of what’s at the park and help take out any fear a person may have about the outdoors.

“Here at Standley lake, we really enjoy the interaction with the public and we enjoy teaching them about what the park offers so that they can come back on their own and enjoy themselves,” she said. “Especially for children, we believe it’s important to teach them about nature so they catch the bug early on. Plus it gets them away from the television and the video games.”

Peggy Boccard, recreation services manager for the city, said the education programs were quite popular this summer and were well-attended.

Some of the programs included: Discovering Bald eagles, which gave people an “up-close” look at the resident eagles of the park, the Edible Forage Walk, which gave people a guided tutorial on wild edibles in the park and the Birds of Standley Lake, which taught people about the large variety of bird species in the park. The snake awareness program, which taught about the different species of the snakes in the park and in Colorado, was a big hit with 48 attendees.

“We want to offer different types of activities and programs so that many people can come out and enjoy the park through our educational opportunities,” Boccard said. “This year we worked hard to expand the programs at the park by dedicating more staff to the programming as well as increasing our marketing efforts.”

The latest program, Fascinated with Fishing, was dedicated just to the little ones ages six to 12 and featured an extensive lesson on fishing. The children learned how to tie a hook, what it means to be an ethical angler, how to handle a fish and the anatomy of a fish. Each child went home with their one fishing pole and even had the opportunity to catch some fish at Loon Lake, a small lake just behind the Standley Lake Dam.

Phil Taylor, interpretation and educational specialist at Standley Lake, taught the program, with some help from a couple other rangers. He said it’s a great feeling watching the kids learn a new skill, and especially catch a fish. He said this summer he’s seen a few kids come back for multiple programs.

“I really just want kids to come out, have fun and ask questions. As long as a kid learns one thing, it’s all worth it to me,” he said. “Plus these programs allow the kids to come and experience the park, which is great.”

Boccard said she is also working on cross-promoting different programs that connect Standley Lake to other recreational programs in the city. For example, this summer there was a water color art class at Standley Lake as well as a yoga class.

“I want to look at other opportunities for programs at the park that aren’t just environmental or nature-oriented because the park has so much to offer,” Boccard said. “We want to get more utilization out of the park, develop more trails and other land-based recreational opportunities.”

The next educational program is Be a Ranger for the Day and will give children ages six to 12 a look at what life is like for a Standley Lake ranger. The three-hour free program begins at 1 p.m. on Sept. 28.

Standley Lake Regional Park is on the western edge of Westminster at 100th Avenue and Simms Street. For information on the park, visit www.ci.westminster.co.us.

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