By Melissa Ford
Meredith Schwartz, the Active Adult & Special Interest Supervisor for the Park District of Oak Park, knows how to have fun . . . outdoors. During the fall the Park Disrict goes camping, and last weekend 20 families joined in, pitching tents at Lindberg Park. Loaded down with sleeping bags, lanterns, tents and other camping paraphernalia, families experienced a little back to nature!
Schwartz stresses the importance of families spending time together outdoors: camping, ghost-hunting, telling stories, cooking, playing games - good old fashioned fun!
Introducing families to the great outdoors yet not having to pack for an entire weekend, plan meals or provide entertainment, the Park District makes the experience user-friendly! “Camping is a neat way to use our parks,” Schwartz comments, “and it’s important that families connect with nature. In this day and age when technology is all around us and parents are concerned about their children’s safety, kids do not get to explore nature on their own.”
Schwartz talks about her own upbringing and nature was a big part of it. “We could explore the creek and experience nature on our own,” Schwartz reflects. “Kids have to be taught how to interact with nature. And, especially in an urban area such as Oak Park, communing with nature is becoming harder and harder to come by.”
Last Friday, I visited the campsite, enjoying all the action: kids searching for ghosts in the prairie grasses, parents and kids assembling tents, and a palpable excitement and anticipation for what the evening might bring!
I spoke with Schwartz after the event and campers gave the experience a thumbs-up: no rain and families had a great time, appreciating all they learned about preparations for the great outdoors. There were a multitude of activities from s’mores being sampled and fingers licked to a breakfast of oatmeal and eggs cooked over a fire in a muffin tin. The event even inspired a family who lives across from Lindberg Park (and who wanted to participate but the campsite was full) to pitch a tent in their own backyard for a night out under the stars.