The forests, wetlands, and fields of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks provide a remarkable space for witnessing the diversity of wild lands and wildlife while getting the family outside.
With 2,000 acres, 150 within the city of Fairbanks, the refuge includes accessible trails, bird viewing areas, interpretive materials, and the farmhouse and barns once occupied by the Interior’s largest dairy.
“There is a huge range of habitats in this small area,” said Christine Huff, executive director of Friends of Creamer’s Field, a nonprofit that runs camps, events, nature walks and other educational activities in the refuge. “It’s really a pretty unique place. Some people have likened it to Central Park. It’s a chance to feel like you’re getting into the wilderness for a little bit — there’s a whole lot here to see in such a small space.”
Depending on timing, you might see migratory birds, foxes, woodchucks, even a distant moose while wandering through forests with birch, aspen, poplar, tamarack, and spruce. Educational materials cover topics like the role of wildland fire, an explanation of permafrost, and an overview of some of the changes caused by people.
Last week, the refuge reopened the Boreal Forest Trail, which suffered damage during last year’s flooding. “We had so much rain last summer, and parts of our refuge are parts of old riverbed channels, so we have boardwalks that washed out,” explained Huff.
The trails only cover a small portion of the refuge but include an array of habitats from the boreal forest to wetlands and farm roads. Winter snow and ice make much more of the refuge accessible through 40 miles of multi-use trails created by the skijoring and mushing communities. Use of the trails is free.
Nature walks and other activities are free and take place all year, and virtually all activities focus on families and a full range of age groups.
Daily nature hikes will continue through the summer at 10 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and then reduce to twice a week in September. Major events include the upcoming Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival August 28 – 30.
Find out more about the refuge programs and activities by perusing the website or calling (907) 452-5162, where you can also ask about tours of the dairy and current farming operations. You also can visit Friends of Creamer’s Field on Facebook.
Top photo by Herb Melchoir; bottom photo by Craig Dorman.
Courtesy of Friends of Creamer's Field.
Come summertime, Alaskans follow the salmon. They gear up and lean into their dip nets, haul out and toss in a line. When not looking to catch fish, they gather to celebrate summer’s nutritional bounty and bountiful light. During the Alaska Salmon Runs and Salmon Jam Music Festival in Cordova July 17 and 18, that means running, racing and kicking up heels, whether in sandals, sneakers, mud boots or bare feet.
The Salmon Runs include a king salmon marathon and sockeye half-marathon, along with shorter, faster courses that children can do, like the Humpy 5K and One Mile Smolt Run/Walk.
“What I love about this event is that it is indeed a day when kids and families come out and run together,” said Kristin Carpenter, race coordinator for Alaska Salmon Runs. “Often one parent will be running the marathon or half-marathon and the other parent will run the 5K with the kids.”
If the crowds come in like previous years, she expects about 40 kids to join the one-mile race this year and another 30 to 60 to run the 5K.
The races take place Saturday morning, but the festival starts Friday afternoon with a guided wild plant walk at 5 p.m., followed by art activities, music and the Copper River salmon cook-off at 6 p.m. The featured bands include Aloha Bluegrass, the Railsplitters, the Builders and the Butchers, plus a slew of opening acts.
The weekend is definitely kid friendly, said Cathy Long, the producer of the Salmon Jam and Copper River Wild Salmon Festival. Kid activities include face painting, fish printing, casting practice and more, plus family dancing, running and playing outside.
Photo credit: Chelsea Haisman
Your kids come in from playing outside. They’re hot, sweaty and thirsty. What do you give them to quench their thirst? Fruit-flavored drinks? Sport drinks?
How about water?
Water and a healthy snack is all your children need to recover from physical activity. Sports drinks, juice drinks and sweetened flavored water are loaded with sugar that your kids don’t need.
Many parents mistakenly believe that some drinks with high amounts of added sugar — especially fruit drinks, sports drinks and sweetened flavored water — are healthy options for children, according to a recent study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The center’s study is featured in an article by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It’s no surprise some parents are confused by these sugary drinks. This confusion is related to the way these drinks are marketed, using labels that say the drinks are all natural, they contain vitamins, replenish electrolytes, and are necessary for hydration – even when they are high in unhealthy amounts of sugar. Sports drinks, on average, contain about 9 teaspoons of sugar per 20 ounce bottle.
“Although most parents know that soda is not good for children, many still believe that other sugary drinks are healthy options. The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, a study author and the Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center. Harris was quoted in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation article.
The misunderstanding of the large amount of sugar in sports drinks, juice drinks and sweetened flavored water inspired the Play Every Day campaign to create a new TV Public Service Announcement that shows how to find added sugars on the ingredient list. If sugar or another sweetener is listed in the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar. Play Every Day is producing a new PSA and related posters that focus on the high amount of sugar in sports drinks to post in schools. The main message is “Just because kids play sports, doesn’t mean they need sports drinks.” Water is the best option for rehydrating when you get out and play.
The recent Rudd Center survey found that 96 percent of participating parents gave sugary drinks to their child during the previous month. Play Every Day surveyed hundreds of Alaska parents of young children during 2014 and learned that 65 percent of Alaska parents served their child sugary drinks during the past week. In both surveys, fruit drinks and sodas were the sugary drinks most often served. Other common sugary drinks provided by parents included sports drinks, sweetened iced tea and sweetened, flavored water.
For more information on selecting healthy drinks for your children, look at Play Every Day’s FAQ page. Click on this website to learn more about finding added sugar on an ingredient list.
When Anchorage residents nominate a park for an upgrade, they point to Campbell Creek and Balto Seppala as having the kind of playgrounds they want for their children. Most don’t know these parks as “inclusive” because of features like ramps and soft landing surfaces that make them more accessible to everyone.
Inclusive playgrounds include equipment that is accessible to children of all abilities, either because the equipment is at ground level or it can be reached using ramps. Families like the soft landing surfaces that prevent injuries, sometimes feeling like foam and other times synthetic turf that is fire resistant and comfortable. Kids like to walk on the turf with bare feet, Durand said.
The Municipality of Anchorage has always followed the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when building parks and playgrounds. During the past five years, however, the parks department has put more effort into going above and beyond the ADA standards and building inclusive parks that make equipment accessible to all children as well as to parents who have physical disabilities and want to play with their children, said Durand. One father who uses a wheelchair thanked the parks department for building playgrounds in a way that allows him to help his children on the equipment, Durand said.
Inclusive parks often include more seating areas, places for picnics, and transitions to trails, creeks and other places to explore nearby. They offer more than equipment that promotes physical activity; they build in sensory instruments like the drums at Cuddy Family Midtown Park, too.
“People like to make music,” Durand said. “People like interesting textures and things to touch. It just kind of opens it up for everyone.”
Cuddy Family Midtown Park was the first park in Anchorage to be built from scratch as an inclusive playground. The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department and the Anchorage Park Foundation have since remodeled two existing parks in Anchorage to make them inclusive — Campbell Creek and Balto Seppala — and plan to remodel three more playgrounds: David Green Park on 36th Avenue, Dave Rose Park in the Russian Jack neighborhood, and the Suzan Nightingale McKay Park in the Government Hill area. Once those parks are completed, six of Anchorage’s 85 playgrounds will be inclusive to all children.
The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department began building inclusive parks after families approached them about wanting to be able to use more of Anchorage’s playgrounds. Funding for the parks comes from federal, state and municipal governments; private sources; and nonprofit organizations like the Anchorage Park Foundation, Durand said.
“We are working on a strategic plan to figure out how we can kind of keep this momentum going,” Durand said.
The photograph of Balto Seppala park was provided by the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department.
Summer in Alaska offers a ton of ways to Get Out and Play Every Day with your kids.
Of course, you don’t have to do anything fancy. There are plenty of no-cost activities to do together — go for a walk (or make it a hike), bike, throw a ball or Frisbee, play a little flag football on the lawn…whatever you do, just get your kids out 60 minutes every day.
To supplement your activities or give your family a goal, try some of Alaska’s organized activities as well.
Next week, the Alaska Center for Children and Adults will hold their annual Family Field Day at Denali Elementary in Fairbanks. The good times roll from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10. Events include an obstacle course, tug-of-war, water balloon toss, disability awareness activities and more. Get the details here.
Not in Fairbanks next week? Here are some other kid-friendly events planned around the state:
· KidzRunning is an 8-week program in Anchorage that starts in June and costs $100. Contact James Dooley at Skinny Raven for more information.
· There will be a Kids Tri-Athlon as part of the Eagle River Tri on June 7.
For more race and run information check out the Alaska Running Calendar, the Healthy Futures event calendar, your community’s website, and the activities calendar on our Play Every Day website. Our website also has more great ideas on how you can Get Out and Play Every Day with your kids.
Anchorage’s Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon embraces a new event this year -- the Healthy Futures Kid’s Mile. While grown-ups and teens look on, pick up race bibs and check out the fitness expo, kids from grades K to 6 can run the mile or half mile fun run on Thursday, June 18, at the Alaska Airlines Center. Registration is free and must be completed by 6:30 p.m. The race starts at 7 p.m.
“These multi-day events that extend beyond an adult-centric race are a great model for positively impacting a community,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures, key partner of the Kid’s Mile. “Often times, people don't self-identify as ‘athletic’ enough to run a race or they don't feel the event is fit for the whole family. The Healthy Futures Kid's Mile and the expo are going to appeal to a larger audience and reinforce the message that being physically active is important to everyone.”
The 42nd annual Mayor’s Marathon event includes full- and half-marathons, relays, a four-miler, and several youth cup races on Saturday, June 20. The marathon course is certified by USA Track and Field and finishers can use their results to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Last year, the event drew nearly 4,200 registrants from all 50 states and 13 countries.
Thursday’s Kid’s Mile coincides with a multi-day fitness expo that includes an outdoor farmer’s market, exhibitors, performances, demonstrations, Mayor’s Marathon participant bib pick up, and more.
The University of Alaska Anchorage athletic department, the organizer of the Mayor’s Marathon event since 2000, approached Healthy Futures about doing a kid-centric event this year. Like all runners at the Mayor’s Marathon event, Kid’s Mile participants will get official race bibs, plus metals and other goodies at the finish line.
Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Anchorage athletic department.
Every kid suffers bumps and bruises growing up; it’s just part of being a kid. As parents, we try our best to protect our children from unintentional injuries as they get out and play. Still, hundreds of Alaska children end up hospitalized with injuries every year.
What are the leading causes of injuries that require a visit to the hospital?
No. 1 is falls. Falling is the main reason children up to age 14 are hospitalized with injuries, according to information gleaned by the Department of Health and Social Services’ Injury Prevention Program from the Alaska Trauma Registry. The registry includes trauma-related information collected when people leave the hospital.
For children ages 5 to 9 years old, another leading cause is an injury from falling on a playground.
“Over the past 10 years, there has been a real push to improve playground safety,” said Dr. Jo Fisher, the injury prevention program manager. “Playground designers are looking at improved construction, safer materials and increased padding,” she said. “But it’s important that parents be there when their children are on the playground — plus, it’s a great opportunity for the parents to be active as well.”
Next on the list for children ages 5 to 9 is injuries from bike riding.
“Most bicycle injury reports include the phrase ‘lost control and fell’,” Dr. Fisher said. She stressed that parents need to be sure that their children are wearing approved bicycle helmets and that they need to be aware that helmet-wearing is required by law for children under age 16 in Anchorage and Kenai, and for children under age 18 in Bethel, Juneau and Sitka. Parents should also make sure that the bike their child rides is the right size and is in good mechanical condition. Check with your local fire department to learn about bike safety classes, bike rodeos and the availability of helmets in your area.
To prevent injuries, pay attention to your feet.
“Play activity should include proper footwear,” Dr. Fisher said. “Flip-flops cause falls and provide very little protection for your feet.”
For older children from 10 to 14, riding All-Terrain-Vehicles is a leading cause of injuries. Three to four children often ride an ATV at the same time, driving it to school in our rural communities, Dr. Fisher said. More children are inclined to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle than when riding an ATV, she said. The faster something goes, the more severe the injuries can be. Helmets are critical when it comes to riding on ATVs, she said.
Don’t forget about life jackets (a.k.a. personal flotation devices or PFDs) when recreating on or near the water. The state’s Kids Don’t Float program provides free loaner life jackets at many locations around the state.
Let’s all do our part to keep our kids safe and healthy while they get out and play, 60 minutes a day.
For more information, see the latest list of the 10 leading causes of non-fatal hospitalized injuries for all Alaskans.
What does it look like in spring when dozens of Alaska kids decide to get out and play?
It looks like biking, hiking and running in the woods. Native dancing and doing the high-kick.
It looks like jumping in puddles during the same week another child sit-skis down the mountain. And it looks like tumbling, sliding at the playground, and kicking around the soccer ball.
Last month we filmed Alaska kids doing all different types of physical activity to show that the possibilities for play are endless. The new 30-second TV public service announcement is packed with a fun and simple message: No matter what you like to do, just get out and play – 60 minutes – every day.
“All children, regardless of their ability or disability, benefit from physical activity,” said Amanda Cooper, the Health and Disability Program Manager with the Section of Women’s, Children’s and Family Health. “The Play Every Day campaign is the perfect avenue to encourage children of all abilities to get out and play.”
The Alaska days just keep getting longer and longer, making it easier to find a sunny stretch of 60 minutes. So there’s only one question: How will you choose to use that 60 minutes to get out and play?
Bike to School Day melds safety with everything kids love about cycling — the independence, the exhilaration, and the fresh air. This year’s National Bike to School Day on May 6 will involve over 50 Alaska schools and thousands of students.
Last year, Anchorage registered more schools than any other participating community nationwide. Schools can still register now, though it’s not required for participation.
“The event promotes life-long fitness and healthy habits,” noted Kim Resheske, a P.E. teacher at Kincaid Elementary and a Bike to School Coordinator for the Anchorage School District. “It also teaches students that it is important to ride safely.”
Bike to School rules are simple. Students must wear a helmet and they should wear bright clothing and follow the guidelines of the Safe Routes to School Program:
Wear a helmet.
Ride in the same direction as traffic.
Be alert to changing traffic conditions.
Obey all traffic signs and signals.
Ocean View Elementary students will get an extra bonus this year when Olympic cross country skiers and siblings Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen, along with Paralympic athlete Andrew Kurka, join them for the ride.
But whoever you ride with and wherever you live, Bike to School Day champions pedal power as a way to get out and play, every day.