Forest offers plenty of reasons to get outside

The Wayne National Forest and a host of local groups and organizations are telling residents to “get out” this weekend – and they mean it in the nicest possible way.

In conjunction with the annual National Get Outdoors Day, the Wayne is holding its Play Outside Weekend, offering people the chance to try out and participate in a variety of outdoor activities for free.

The goal of the day nationally and weekend locally is the same: Combat the obesity and sedentary lifestyles that threaten today’s children with shorter life expectancies than their parents, said Gary Chancey, public affairs staff officer for the forest.

“We’ve expanded it outside of just one day,” he said. “On Friday is when it starts.”

While many of the activities will be at the Leith Run Recreation Area near Newport, Friday’s activities are scheduled to take place at Lamping Homestead in Monroe County. The Monroe County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council is having a hot dog roast at 6 p.m., followed by horse and buggy rides from 7 to 9. The Southeast Ohio Astronomical Society will lead a night sky viewing from 9 to 10:30 p.m.

The action shifts to Leith Run Saturday, with Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, helping to kick off the festivities. Activities will include fishing, archery, orienteering, water safety, mountain bike skills and disc golf. There will also be an invasive plants scavenger hunt, a raptor demonstration by an Ohio State Parks naturalist and a chance to learn more about local wildlife and even touch reptiles.

Camping for the weekend is also free.

The Washington County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council will be providing horseback rides for children up to 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the nearby Kinderhook Horse Trailhead.

“We do this to give kids an opportunity to meet a horse and to experience a ride that they would not otherwise be able to,” said Arden Sims, president of the local chapter.

Last year, about 70 children took advantage of the opportunity.

“This year we’re expecting probably 200,” Sims said.

And members of the horseman’s group don’t just go for that activity, said Sims, who attended last year’s bluegrass concert and said other members enjoyed stargazing and other events.

This year’s concert is from 6 to 8 p.m. and features bluegrass band Straight Edge. A chicken dinner, donations appreciated, starts an hour earlier. The evening wraps up with S’mores and stories around a campfire.

Dawn McCarthy, assistant Athens District ranger for the forest, said the activities are open to folks who are familiar with them or trying them out for the first time.

“It’s a good chance to come learn something that maybe you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to try,” she said.