by Corby Hines
Before beginning my tenure as outings guide at Sonoma Land Trust, I spent years working with kids as a teacher-naturalist at a local outdoor science school. Each week, a new group of middle-schoolers would arrive from Sacramento, the East Bay, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or anywhere in between to be introduced to the natural wonders of Sonoma County. It was very rewarding to aid in the transformation of students who had never spent much time in nature. At first, many kids were wary of simply sitting on the soil, holding a beetle or just walking on an uneven trail, having rarely ventured off the pavement in their lives back home. After four or five days of hiking through redwood forests, exploring the creek, going on a night hike and helping with a restoration project, the kids were wholly transformed. That student who was at first scared to sit on the forest floor, by the end of the week, was turning over rotten logs in search of salamanders and eating wild huckleberries that they picked themselves — and encouraging their friends to do the same. The personal growth that a kid can accomplish in a short time is truly remarkable.
The importance of introducing kids to nature cannot be overstated. If young people don’t have access to nature, they can’t create fond memories of playing in the outdoors — and, as a result, they may not care about nature as adults. Since we are part of nature, and we come from nature, they would be missing an essential understanding of themselves. In addition, our collective will to protect our remaining wild areas for future generations would be imperiled.
It is my personal mission to connect people with nature. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to lead hikes and outings for people through the beautiful landscapes that Sonoma Land Trust has protected. Most of the people we serve on these hikes and outings are adults — and while I love getting to discuss scientific concepts at a higher level (and not having to discipline my hiking group for throwing pine cones at each other), I do miss the unbridled joy and wonder that kids in nature readily share.
Fortunately, we at Sonoma Land Trust are embarking on a project to restore that love of nature in kids — our new Bay Camp. Starting this summer, our day camp will provide underserved youth in Sonoma County with the opportunity to ride bikes along the Bay Trail, explore the hills on foot and paddle the tidal marsh in kayaks. Based out of the Ralph Benson Center at Sears Point, we will provide free transportation from the Sonoma Valley and partial scholarships for low-income families. We’ll have bilingual counselors on hand to facilitate games and activities, creating positive connections with nature and memories that will last a lifetime. Stay tuned — we’ll be sharing more about Bay Camp over the coming months. Thank you for your support, which helps us continue our local legacy of caring for the land for generations to come!
Corby Hines is Sonoma Land Trust's outings guide.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.