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Gaston’s Park Hop helps families stay active over summer

Gaston Gazette - 6/12/2019

Want to get your kids outside this summer?

Gaston County health officials have an idea to make it fun. Park Hop -- enthusiastic frog mascot and all -- is a scavenger hunt-style trek across Gaston County's parks.

Families get "passports" with a map of 14 public parks, and each entry has a "clue." Parents and their kids can make a day out of picking a park and finding the clue.

The end goal: Check off all 14 by the end of summer.

"Our biggest thing is to get people out and to explore and enjoy the park system," said Brittany Carey, a health education coordinator for Gaston Health and Human Services.

The program has been around for a few years, but participation was lagging. That's not the case in 2019. Since Park Hop started in early May, more than 600 passports have been distributed, and 125 participants in 41 families have signed up.

Passports can be printed from the county website or picked up in person the department's Hudson Boulevard location, county libraries or the Travel and Tourism office in Belmont. Staff from the department will also be at several outdoor events throughout the county this summer to hand out passports and answer questions.

Once participants visit one of the parks, they read a specific clue and set about getting the answer. For example, folks visiting Riverside Park and Greenway in Cramerton are asked to find out how many planks are on the fishing piers, deck and ramp. In Poston Park near Lowell, "hoppers" need to figure out how many bridges are on the lake loop trail -- a task that requires some healthy activity to complete.

And in Martha Rivers Park in Gastonia, kids are directed to a "fitness station" -- one of several in a collection of free-standing exercise equipment installations. Carey said she hopes that kids will not only jot down the name of the type of exercise at the specific station, but give it a shot.

"Hopefully, at that point, they'll do it and then get entertained and do the rest of them," she said.

The rest of the tasks follow a similar theme. As families complete the passport, they can enter their answers online. Some participants will get random prizes before the program ends Aug. 7. There are also three grand prizes, too: A bike and two passes to the National Whitewater Center.

"We want people to get active," Carey said. "Staying healthy and staying active and experiencing the park system -- it's all free. If you come here, you can be entertained for hours."

But there's no rush.

"You can go at your own pace," Carey said. "If you want, you can do all 14 in one week. If not, you can pace them out."

To learn more, call 704-853-5083. To register, go to gastongov.com/parkhop.

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(c)2019 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.

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