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home : education : schools July 22, 2018

10/17/2017 1:22:00 PM
Kids, bikes, and nature
Butterflies are big on the bikersí list of learning. photo by Jim Anderson
+ click to enlarge
Butterflies are big on the bikersí list of learning. photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

An environmental biking tour set up for kids in the Metolius/Camp Sherman area is worth going on about. It's specifically run for kids and it's operating in the forest on hiking/biking trails around Camp Sherman with the goal of getting kids into their natural environment and paying attention to what they're seeing.

Can't beat that with a stick.

Heather Walden, a bright-as-a-spotlight, up-and-coming young mom thought it up. She got to looking around her and noticed kids with not much to do. Then she noticed the bike trails waiting for those kids to use them and she put two and two together and came up with the "Black Butte Eco Bike Explorers."

The current program is for kids between the ages of 10-13, and because this was her first season in operation, the program space was limited. As the program grows, she and her board will develop a bigger program as the community recognizes the value of eco-biking for kids, and interest grows.

It's a grassroots non-profit program designed to get kids outdoors to learn about ecology and conservation through art and hands-on mountain bike exploration. The goals are to provide kids knowledge and tools to make a difference in how they see the world of nature, help improve the environment, and keep them from hitting trees, running over wildflowers and bumping in to wandering wildlife while doing it.

Safety and respect are the first things Walden hits on every time the kids go out biking. She won't put up with a kid - or kids - blasting down the trail without caring about where they are, and taking the time to see what's around them.

Neither she nor parents want to spend time getting a kid out of the forest who has wrapped him or herself around a tree, or got into a tussle with a buck deer. Walden's adopted the slogan, "If you can't do this with care, then stay home."

The biking trips cover topics of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost, and Water Quality, and they come with their own mountain bike, helmet, backpack, lunch and water-bottle. The first few weeks they focus on basic bike skills and safety, and use trails that are easy to moderate levels and not much incline, with many observation (aka resting) points! The bikers are provided with journals, to draw and make our own observations and trail maps.

And Shane, one of the eager eco-bikers had this to say: "It was amazing! It was a blast! We did some art projects, we biked up to the lake. We had fun swimming in the water after a long bike ride from Camp Sherman to the lake. We stopped by Lake Creek to have lunch breaks and we would wade in the creek and catch crawdads. One day my dog Stella rolled around in some human poop that some campers left behind without burying it.  We were disappointed at how gross the campsites were left by campers along the creek."

At the end of the season, Walden and the bikers developed a trail guide book that others can use to enjoy the out-of-doors. And of course, in those hot days of summer they rode up to Suttle Lake to cool off and


During the summer, the bikers often took time to return to Camp Sherman in the afternoons to work on art projects with treasures they found from nature and/or art from scraps found on their explorations.

Kids learned about natural habitats of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, how and what to recycle, and how they can take part in projects together and enjoy fun summer outdoors. For more information call Walden at 541-719-8021, or go to her website next summer early and get in on the tours her bikers will be taking:

As of now, the first kid's Eco Bike tour for 2018 will be on Wednesday, June 20, meeting 9 a.m. at Black Butte School. Better get it on your calendar before the tour is filled.

If this sounds good to both child and parent, Walden will be ready for you to join her next summer. And in between visiting golden eagle nesting territories both my wife, Sue, and I will be with some of the eco bikers to share what we know about the world of nature and how it all fits into all our lives.

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