Improved fitness trail to debut at 4-H summer camp

Karol Osborne  |  4/25/2018 2:41:10 PM

(04/25/2018) POLLOCK, La. — The Hathorn Fitness and Nature Trail at 4-H camp is getting a makeover, adding another fun activity to summer camping adventures at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker Educational Center in Pollock.

AgCenter camp director Christine Bergeron said the interactive trail is a “win-win” opportunity and will offer an exciting recreation component for every child attending summer camp.

“The trail doesn’t take a long time to complete. Everyone can do it, and all of the activities can be modified for individual challenges,” Bergeron said.

The nature and fitness trail was established in 1988 by members of the Louisiana Association of Extension 4-H Agents in honor of AgCenter 4-H specialist and longtime camp manager Kellett Hathorn upon his retirement. Hathorn died in 2008 and was formerly recognized on the regional and national levels as a summer camping authority.

Teen members of the state 4-H Food and Fitness Board scouted each station, taking photos, collecting notes and marking the GPS locations to help re-established the camp trail, AgCenter 4-H Healthy Living coordinator Jessica Stroope said.

Grant Parish 4-H Food and Fitness Board member Myranda Smith said it was exciting to take part in the decision-making process to restore the trail. “It’s pretty cool knowing that generations will enjoy it,” she said.

Initially developed by non-retired AgCenter nutrition specialists Sara Seals and Peggy Gentry, the 2018 version of the trail’s teaching guide has been revamped to include needed repairs, a few updated physical activities and the GPS coordinates, AgCenter Southwest Region 4-H coordinator Lanette Hebertsaid.

With 18 stops along a route that meanders through remote areas of the campground, the trail encourages campers to explore the environment while exercising to achieve personal fitness goals.

Each stop along the trail features signs illustrating a fitness exercise and the number of repetitions campers are to perform.

Activities feature three levels of difficulty, ranging from the low rep “fun” level, to medium “workout” level, with a higher number of repetitions assigned to the “challenge” level.

Bergeron said swimming in the creek has been missed by campers in recent years and will be added this year as the last stop on the fitness trail.

Because the trail incorporates creek, pond and stream areas, supervision by trained personnel ensures safety for all campers, she said.

Ava Hackeny, a 4-H Food and Fitness Board member from Vermilion Parish, said she hopes the trail will help improve campers’ outlook on fitness and exercise. Board members tested each activity for safety and enjoyment, she said.

Some examples of fitness activities along the route include walking lunges, chin-ups, squats, bench steps, wall and rope climbing, the horizontal ladder, vault and balance beam.

Campers also learn how to calculate their target heart rate and practice correct techniques for warming up before — and cooling down after — a workout.

“Knowing that this is going to happen, not just for this camp but for other camps at Grant Walker, means a lot,” St. Mary Parish board member Jacob Rogers said.

The 4-H camping season for youth in grades four through six starts May 21 and continues through July 27. LOST camp, a science, engineering and technology-focused adventure, targets youth in grades seven and eight and runs from July 29 through Aug. 1.

“We strive to offer different activities each year across a wide range of interests to engage youth in exciting learning experiences in a safe environment supervised by trained instructors,” Bergeron said.

The 4-H summer camping program offers youth an all-around camping experience that focuses on the development of the whole child and encourages creativity, communication and problem-solving, she said.

Boys and girls are encouraged to explore one of the seven educational tracks, including food and fitness, general arts, outdoor adventures, wetlands, hunter safety, water safety, and science, engineering and technology.

Each track has structured lessons and fun hands-on activities taught by classroom instructors during morning sessions at camp.

Afternoons are filled with recreation rotations that include active sports like canoeing and kayaking, basketball, swimming, archery and paddle-boarding, and the newly renovated fitness and nature trail.

Each parish 4-H youth development program has a specific week scheduled for club members to attend camp throughout the summer, and registration is handled through local 4-H offices.

Bergeron said youth who are not enrolled in 4-H clubs in their parish can join in the camping fun by registering through the online open enrollment system at www.lsuagcenter.com/grantwalker. The camp fee for open enrollment is $225, and parents are responsible for transportation to and from camp.

To learn more about 4-H summer camp and the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center, visit the camp website at www.lsuagcenter.com/grantwalker. Camp updates and highlights are posted on Facebook at Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center.

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4-H Food and Fitness Board members, from left, Myranda Smith, of Grant Parish, Ava Hackeny, of Vermilion Parish, and Jacob Rogers, of St. Mary Parish, describe repairs and upgrades performed as part of the restoration efforts for the Hathorn Trail, a fitness and nature adventure available at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker Educational Center near Pollock. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter

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