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June 7
1861 - Fort Tejon commander ordered to abandon fort (est. 1854) & transfer garrison to Los Angeles [story]
Fort Tejon

Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Mar 23, 2014

DianneErskineHellrigelMany youngsters who live in and around the Santa Clarita Valley have never had the opportunity to experience the outdoors, nature, hiking, wild animals, plants or wilderness.

There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, emotional and physical ways that their peers do not.  By reducing stress, sharpening concentration and promoting creative and scientific learning, nature education and outings into wild areas can provide a positive outlet and many opportunities for kids.

In sharp contrast, children who are not exposed at an early age to nature grow up without any bond to nature or natural things. They lack respect for the land, and the understanding and appreciation of animals, plants and water. Many adults who were raised without nature think nothing of littering or dumping refuse in wilderness or applying graffiti in some of our most precious areas.

This attitude will affect them throughout their lives, and in many ways, the lack of an introduction to nature will limit their potential.

1The Community Hiking Club of Santa Clarita sponsors a program designed to support the needs of kids in Santa Clarita.  Our goals with the project are many, and we have a variety of tools with which we can reach out to kids.

Education is our No. 1 concern. They will learn about the concept of wilderness, land preservation, stewardship, ecology, fire ecology, habitat, animal corridors, geology, fossils, natural oil seeps, local oil industry history, flora and fauna.

Opportunities to learn about a healthy lifestyle are another critical aspect of the program. Americans are experiencing an epidemic of obesity among our youth, and promoting a positive fitness program is important to counteracting this challenge.

Kids who experience exercise in a natural setting may continue to enjoy these activities throughout their lives – leading to happier, healthier people with a sense of community, a respect for nature, and personal well-being. This is an ideal form of recreation with benefits that could last a lifetime.

file000jpegWe are setting up outings on trails throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, including our local open spaces. Weekday or weekend times can be arranged for schools, clubs and other groups. You can request a hike or an outdoor eco-class. We accept all ages, and we love to have parents, teachers, club leaders and counselors tag along as well.

It’s great to see the kids get out there in nature. The highlight of a recent kids’ hike was the grand discovery of a Pacific chorus frog that the kids nicknamed “Carlos.”

We’d love to have you join us. Email the Community Hiking Club today to book a hike or eco-trail class with your club or group. Let your friends, teachers and club leaders know about our program. Your kids will thank you for it. Classes or hikes are $7 per person with a minimum of 12 kids.

For more information visit communityhikingclub.com or email me at zuliebear@aol.com.


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.




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  1. Greg Brown Greg Brown says:

    But what about their FB? Gameboys? Niklodian?

  2. Carol says:

    Seriously? We are surrounded by nature. I can See inner-city kids having this problem, not kids in SCV

  3. Thank you for this! Great idea for a bday party. Chuck E. Cheese can take a hike.

  4. I know my oldest would love this, we hiked a lot on Whidbey island, WA. Also he has been to Yosemite quite a few times. Is there a hiking program for special needs?

  5. Kids in Santa Clarita have Nature Deficit Disorder. They spend their time in school or in front of the computer. Most of them have no idea about the natural world around them. AND, we have at-risk kids here too. I’ve been taking a group of them out into nature: camping/hiking/learning about nature, and there is a huge change in attitude. Don’t think that because you don’t live in the inner city that your kids don’t have nature deficit disorder.For special needs kids, there is a program at Bridges to Ability for getting kids outside.

  6. Tony Arnold says:

    Great article and great recommendations Diane! Two of my kids do very well with this but I have to push to keep the third out in nature and he enjoys it when we do. I will try to bring my youngest out with you guys for a hike soon.


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