Joe Gillespie remembers a time when kids around here just naturally gravitated to the outdoor splendor of Del Norte.
Whether it was swimming on a shoreline, venturing into the redwoods or playing a pickup softball game, “it didn’t take much to want to be outside.”
There weren’t the stultifying distractions of today’s technology, the lure of home video games and all manner of hand-held electronic gadgets. “We had two TV channels here when I was a kid,” he recalls.
The Crescent Elk Middle School teacher would like to us to do more to push kids out the door, so to speak. With some organizational muscle, programs could be established to get them swimming, golfing, kayaking, bicycling, backpacking, etc. Recreational efforts could be aided by adult volunteers — we have plenty of outdoor enthusiasts who would be willing to help, Gillespie figures — while providing some seasonal employment to teenagers.
In essence, he proposes a parallel effort to the very fine network of youth team sports programs that has already been established here. This one would focus more on healthy but less formal activities that could last a lifetime. Not every child is cut out to be a team-sports participant, he points out, and the opportunities diminish as kids grow up, with only a “chosen few” still playing by high school.
Our youths are growing up in a land of unlimited recreational opportunities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be pointed in the right directions. A coordinated effort could even include some type of special “currency,” Gillespie says, “youth bucks” that might be purchased by parents or awarded by schools for good academic performance and could be used for swimming pool access or kayaking classes or golf lessons or greens fees.
Well-organized recreational opportunities tailored to Del Norte’s outdoor amenities would serve not only local children, but those who are visiting.
“That’s the kind of thing we need to value,” says Gillespie, and he should know. He’s long been teaching his students the value of growing and eating their own food. And he tries to nudge them onto our incredible hiking trails during after-school programs.
He’s taken his concept to “rev up recreation” to a couple of the meetings of the California Endowment, where Del Norters are identifying our community’s most critical health-related needs.
One of those needs is undoubtedly better access to health care, but the idea of putting some money toward encouraging our children to pursue healthy recreational opportunities shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. It would help address the problems of childhood obesity and juvenile delinquency, and it would better prepare them for a lifetime of enjoying what Del Norte has to offer.
PROMOTING DEL NORTE, ’80s-STYLE
Speaking of what we have to offer, I turn the rest of today’s column over to Marilyn Pavelin, who wrote the following:
“While cleaning out some old VCR tapes I stumbled across a 1986 travel video that was put together regaling the listener on the virtues of visiting Del Norte County. I thought it would be fun to record it to a DVD so my children (both were born in CC) could watch it on their computers.
“Well I went one step further and loaded it to YouTube so any of the old-timers in CC could take a look. It has been converted from an ancient VCR tape so please excuse the quality. It is only 10 minutes long and is narrated by none other than Bill Stamps, Sr.! You might even recognize a few of the faces of the locals who appear in the video!
“Go to YouTube and in the search window type “Del Norte County 1986 Travel Promo.” It should be at the top of the list. Enjoy!”