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Public Lands Day encourages families to explore the natural world

Turn the screens off and get into nature. That is the message behind the nationally recognized week-long celebration, Take A Child Outside, from Sept. 24-30.

Families are encouraged to explore the many natural amenities of the St. Charles Park District, and with more than 415 acres of natural area diverse with prairies, woodlands, savannahs and wetlands, plus 20 miles of trails, you won’t have to go far to surround yourself in the sights and sounds of nature.

“With summer ending and school starting we want to continue the momentum of exploring the natural world, and this week brings awareness to the many possibilities and benefits of spending quality time outside,” said Laura McCoy, nature programs supervisor. “It’s fun to engage with your family in a way that’s screen free.”

For families who want a structured activity, the National Public Lands Day presents the perfect outdoor activity.

Celebrate the beauty and learn the importance of native plants and natural habitats by exploring Hickory Knolls with your family and friends on Sept. 26. Fresh air awaits you in this morning of fun, learning and making a positive difference. Enjoy a variety of family-friendly nature exploration activities at two different time slots, 10-11 a.m. or 11 a.m. to noon. Participants may visit with the critters, view the nature restoration big vehicle and equipment display, learn about prescribed burns and much more.

Park District naturalists will explain the ways natural environments support local insects, birds and other wildlife. Meet the nature restoration crews for a special experience with the tools of the trade. Explore the trails with a guided hike or at your own pace.

“Public Lands Day is a great way to enjoy the beautiful fall season. We hope families have fun together, learning and interacting during these hands-on nature-based activities,” McCoy said.

All participants are required to wear masks when being physically distant is not possible. Please register in advance.

Another activity will help your family learn about the various trees in the community during the free Big Tree Passport activity. Participants will receive instructions on Sept. 23 on where to visit each tree, some of which are witness trees that date back to the 1800s. Trees will be marked in each park. Print the passport to record which trees you’ve seen. Register online.

There are many other impromptu ways to Take A Child Outside such as exploring new parks, or participating in a new activity at your favorite park. Fish and enjoy the waterfall in Delnor Woods Park; hide under the canopy of trees at Mt. St. Mary Park; hike or splash in the creek at Otter Creek Bend Wetland Park; or fish or paddle in the Fox River via kayak or canoe, or rent a paddleboat at Pottawatomie Park.

Families can easily spend an afternoon exploring Hickory Knolls as well. Start your trip at the Hideout, the natural play area filled with rocks and tree stumps and other natural elements and watch your child’s imagination come alive.

Then head to the Hickory Knolls natural area trail across the road to experience the new walk-and-read story, “Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home.” Consisting of 13 storyboards posted along the trail, your children can follow the adventures of Harley the hawk and Greta the grasshopper while learning about the land, and the plants and animals that live on the 120-plus acre site. Then finish your trip by visiting the Discovery Center, which is open to guests to meet turtles, snakes, amphibians and more.

For more information to register for National Public Lands Day, visit

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