Vacation Plans

A different kind of summer camp

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Kids had it good in the summer of 2019. They could spend their days at baseball and tennis camps, watch outdoor movies while sprawled on picnic blankets among throngs of fellow community members, get signed up for adventure quests in local parks, and attend any number of al fresco concert series and waterfront festivals with their families. Plans were made, and fun was had.

Things are decidedly different this summer. With the cancellation of pretty much every public event due to the coronavirus crisis and the uncertainty of when people will be able to gather together in larger groups again, the days and nights of summer will now have to be filled in different ways. Luckily, we live in an area where we don’t have to travel far to find an abundance of options that can keep kids busy, and even connect them to nature.

Exploring the waterfront at low tide is a great way to turn curious children into future environmentalists. By observing what’s unearthed when the tide recedes, they get an up-close look at the creatures and habitats that need protecting. And even if they get squirted by a geoduck or find a dead Dungeness crab concealed under a bed of eelgrass, they’ll still be asking questions about their experiences and learning something about the world. Parents and keepers, be prepared to field numerous queries about marine life, how the tidal cycle is affected by the moon, and why it’s not a good idea to drink saltwater. With minus tides in the horizon from June 18-26, now’s the time to choose a beach and study up on how to tell the difference between a male and female rock crab. More info: http://www.saltwatertides.com

Camping in the backyard is an obvious choice amid a global pandemic, when staying close to home is recommended and public utilities become more scarce once you leave city limits. If you’re going to do it, though, don’t just grill hotdogs and roll out sleeping bags. Pitch a tent or two, add some s’mores to the mix, tell tales around the campfire (or a well-lit barbecue), play word games like Simon Says, listen for frogs and other nocturnal animals, and do some stargazing if the night is clear. The National Wildlife Federation’s annual Great American Campout is on the horizon, and they’ve got plenty more tips to make the activity a memorable one—whether you’re on your lawn or on a mountain getaway. More info: http://www.nwf.org/Great-American-Campout

Learning to sail at the Community Boating Center is still an option, and although the volunteer-driven nonprofit that’s been fostering safe small-boat recreation and marine stewardship on Bellingham Bay since 2007 hasn’t officially opened its rental program for the season, it’s still possible to sign up for youth camps and adult classes. Among the offerings for the under-18 set are five-day Adventure Camps for ages 9-14—focusing on a trifecta of sailing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. “We intentionally focus initiatives, games and skill-building activities around individual and group skill development, building self-confidence, and simply having fun on the water,” staffers say. “We expect that your child will leave having learned basic kayaking, sailing, and safe boating skills—but an overall positive experience with small boats is our goal in this camp, so that participants have a strong foundation and desire from which to continue learning in the future.” Junior Learn to Sail Beginners Camps and Teen Intro to Keelboats are also on the docket, but space is filling fast. More info: http://www.boatingcenter.org

Combine art with nature by bringing your progeny along on a jaunt to the Big Rock Garden Park at 2900 Sylvan St. In addition to sussing out the 37 permanent works by both local sculptors and international artists—among them are an eye-catching geometrical sculpture by renowned Mexican artist Sebastian and rarely seen pieces by Canadian artist David Marshall, but that won’t mean much to a 7-year-old—the 2.5-acre garden also boasts sinuous garden paths that invite exploration. If the youngsters respond favorably to the culturally inspired outing, consider taking them on a tour of Western Washington University’s ever-growing contemporary sculpture collection on the campus grounds. With school out until further notice, there shouldn’t be much of a crowd, and social distancing should be a snap. More info: http://www.cob.org or http://www.westerngallery.wwu.edu/sculpture

Other options for keeping busy this summer including checking out the Bellingham Dirt Jump Park, where all skill levels of mountain bikers are welcome and the waterfront view can’t be beat. It might also be time to explore the intricacies of the Interurban Trail beyond the scenic Boulevard Park to Taylor Dock route; teach your little ones how to fly a kite and tell the difference between a trawler and a purse seiner at Zuanich Point Park; or take a hike to the Sehome Arboretum with a picnic the kids helped put together.

This is just a sampling of activities that can still help flatten the COVID-19 curve while simultaneously making the best out of an unfortunate situation. After all, summer isn’t cancelled, it’s just taking a vacation.

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