Outdoor lovers discover Oglebay

CHANCE TO LEARN — Oglebay Institute Naturalist Ramsay Core guides Ben Cook of Morgantown through the Schrader Environmental Education Center’s Salamander Search program along Falls Drive in Wheeling. -- Contributed

WHEELING — As several families participated in Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center’s Salamander Search in a small stream along Falls Drive last week, one thing was quite apparent: Their enjoyment of being outdoors in the midst of nature.

While indoor summer classes have been postponed at the center due to the ongoing pandemic, many of the its outdoor camps are as popular as ever with visitors to the park and the local community, according to Schrader Center Director Molly Check.

“We’ve had great feedback right from the beginning,” Check said.

She said their public summer programming, which began June 1, has been very popular for many visitors.

“There’s a lot of people coming out, especially for the streams and pond programs. … Our stream program is actually the most popular, which is why we offer it twice a week because you are actually in the water and can cool down on hot days,” Check said. “People have been very excited to get out, especially with spending a lot of the spring (season) inside.”

While the center was forced to postpone indoor classes like their soap making and Roots ‘N Shoots classes as they continue to follow the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, there seems to be a tremendous thirst for outdoor programs, according to Check.

“We’ve put so much work into all of the distancing guidelines and the safety and the cleaning for the camps and programs that we’re running, that it’s going to be a very smooth transition to get those classes up and running,” Check explained. “Once we get that green light we’ll be moving forward.” She said while their guests are not required to wear masks to their outdoor camps and activities, all of the staff wears masks at the center and during each nature program.

While the facility is already offering their Summer of Wonder programs like: “Salamander Search” and “Nature Story Time,” the center’s summer camps officially are scheduled to kick-off Monday, according to Check.

One of the center’s newest program additions this year is their Family Nature Program. This program is specifically tailored to families who might want the opportunity to socially distance themselves a little more from the general public and have more of a one-on-one experience with the naturalist, according to Check.

“We designed those because we know everyone’s comfort level is a little different right now,” Check explained. “We look at it as a household program.”

Check said as soon as state guidelines permit them to conduct indoor classes, they plan to move forward with those programs while observing the proper safety rules and regulations.

“We’ll just keep following those state guidelines … and keeping everyone safe and having fun,” Check added.

Jennifer Cook of Morgantown, who was taking pictures of her son, Ben, while he participated in the Salamander Search program, said Oglebay Park is a great place to meet up with her parents who are from New Martinsville.

“It’s outside and there’s a lot to do. We come and do all the activities Oglebay has to offer. We love it here,” Cook commented.

Jennifer Hicks of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who was participating in the camp with her daughter, Riley, said they were looking for a vacation location where they could rent a cottage and enjoy the outdoors. She said she had to cancel a boat cruise over spring break due to the pandemic and they decided to look for cooler climate in the northeast to vacation.

“We found this,” Hicks said. “We’re always looking for hiking, outdoors and cooler weather — all the things we don’t have at home.”

(McCloskey can be contacted at smccloskey@theintelligencer.net)


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