Since its opening in 2016, Scioto Grove Metro Park has not only been a recreational source for residents; it also has been a benefit for Columbus Franklin County Metro Parks.
The park at 5172 Jackson Pike in Grove City is one of three Metro Parks that are hosting a full complement of day camps this summer. The others are Highbanks in Lewis Center and Homestead in Hilliard.
"Each week we have six different camps going on, but those three sites are hosting camps every single week," said Audrey Zimmerman, Metro Parks' camp and special events coordinator.
"Scioto Grove is one of our parks that has all of the facilities and capacity to handle each camp and every week," she said. "We hosted camps here the last two summers."
Each camp offers sessions for students in grades 1-3 and 4-6, Zimmerman said.
"Our goal with the camp program is to get kids back outside," she said. "It's also a chance to introduce them to the Metro Parks and what we have to offer. We know that once they experience a park, there's a good chance they will want to come back for a visit."
Children aren't spending as much time outdoors as they used to, even during summer, said Beth James, head camp counselor at Scioto Grove.
"It's so easy these days to get caught up in our electronics and social media," she said. "Our program gives our campers a chance to experience nature and participate in activities they don't normally do."
Some youngsters attend only one or two camps during the summer, but others will be participating in all five sessions, Zimmerman said.
"We have kids who come to camp who've never been fishing or kayaking," she said. "For others, being outdoors is second-nature to them."
Four of the camps are being offered twice, once during June and again in July:
* Goin' Green explores sustainability and will be offered July 9-13.
* Animal Athletes, set July 16-20, explores the speed, agility and general athletic prowess of creatures.
* Outdoor Explorers Club, scheduled July 23-27, teaches youngsters outdoor skills.
* Ready? Set. H2O!, running July 30 through Aug. 3, will feature outdoor water games and adventures.
"Each week has a different theme, and we organize our activities and games around that theme," James said.
Fishing, creeking and a cookout is included in each weekly camp.
Calling All Campers will be held Aug. 6-10, offering a final week of outdoor activities as the camp season wraps up.
Each camp offers hands-on games, activities and projects, Zimmerman said.
On a recent day during the Explorers Club camp, the activities included designing and building model tents that incorporated battery-operated tealights.
"Our camp counselors used water guns to simulate rain, and what we were trying to see is if they had built their model tents well enough that their lights were protected from the rain," Zimmerman said.
"Many of the activities during the explorers club involves learning skills that you can use when your outdoors, like being able to find your way back to camp without a compass or learning which plants are safe to eat," she said. "Just in case you ever got lost in the wild, these are skills that would help you."
In one activity, youngsters made a fishing reel out of plastic.
"They were able to explore their inner-MacGyvers (a television character)," Zimmerman said.
Up to 32 youngsters can sign up for each week's camp at Scioto Grove, she said.
Most participants at Scioto Grove are Grove City or southwest Franklin County residents, Zimmerman said.
While some camps are filled up, space is still available in several remaining programs, she said.
Each day, camp meets from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The cost is $150 for county residents and $175 for nonresidents. The day camps at Scioto Grove offer before and after camp care from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m.
More information is available at metroparks.net.
As they prepared to take their turn kayaking during a session June 20, Addison Moore, 10, of Grove City and Madeline Smallwood, 9, of Canal Winchester were applying bug spray to each other to protect themselves from insects.
Addison said she is a regular camp attendee.
"I like coming to the camps because I really enjoy being outdoors," she said. "It's fun learning about the different kind of animals in nature. I especially like hiking because you get to see some of the animals up close."
Someday, Addison said, she would like to be a camp counselor.
Madeline was attending her first camp.
"My dad told me about it and I thought it would be fun to be able to go creeking and hiking," she said. "I like seeing new animals for the first time. I've been able to see a woodpecker, and I've never seen one of those before, and we keep finding these 'rhino bugs.' "
"Rhino bugs," James said, is the term campers have given to large weevils (beetles) that thrive in the park.
"Perhaps the best part of camp is just being with the friends I'm making," Madeline said, pointing to Addison.
"We became friends right away, and we never would have met if it wasn't for camp," Addison said.