Olsen: It is essential to guard, respect the outside


Cassy Olson
| Seasonal naturalist at Watertown Park

David Attenborough said: “Nobody will protect what is not important to them and nobody will care about what they have never experienced.”

This is my all time favorite quote because the message is very close to my heart. As a naturalist from the Pelican Lake, Sandy Shore and Lake Cochrane Recreational Areas and Hartford Beach State Park; Always at work, I offer fun and educational opportunities and experiences for people of all ages, interests and backgrounds.

From the tiniest insects on the surface of the earth to what goes on in the clouds and everything in between, my goal remains the same – to teach our guests the importance of protecting and cherishing what we have and how to do it is to be experienced.

The programs I offer give learners all the tools and knowledge they need to open and manage the doors to an outdoor life. Studies show that children’s connection with nature and getting outdoors provides many health benefits. Through these experiences, they gain life skills, self-confidence, friendships, problem-solving skills, build their imaginations and of course increase their physical and mental well-being.

This just scratches the surface of what children’s connection with nature can do. They will also foster a passion for nature so that they can carry on our tradition and be the next generation to care for and protect our planet’s resources. Seeing that the programs we offer in the parks continue to generate interest and attendance is a promising and hopeful outlook for our future.

This year, from January 14th to May 6th, we held Operation Adventure every second Thursday at the Pelican Lake Recreation Area. In our Operation Adventure series, we offered experiences for participants of all ages and ability levels. Programs included snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter survival, ice fishing, trapping, geocaching, mammals, pollinators, weather, bank fishing, and archery.

Operation Adventure continues for our brand new summer series on June 16 at the Pelican Lake Recreation Area. The programs continue every second Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the picnic hut. Programs include building wooden duck boxes, cooking in the Dutch oven, paddling, archery and a campout. Everything is provided for these programs, and the lessons learned from it are much more than we can ever imagine.

By participating in our programs, you will be participating in new opportunities so that you can learn to nurture and protect the traditions that are so important to our heritage in South Dakota. To learn more about each program, visit our Pelican Lake, Sandy Shore and Lake Cochrane Recreation Area Facebook page or visit the events calendar at gfp.sd.gov/events.

We’ll be running tons of other fun programs and opportunities to get in touch with nature on weekends this summer in the parks. So keep an eye on these sources for the latest on upcoming events!

Attenborough said it best. “Nobody will protect what is not important to him and nobody will care about what he has never experienced.” Fortunately for us, we have state parks and recreation areas everywhere that can offer us many experiences so that we can learn to care for and protect the resources we have. As we do this, we also create memories, healthy choices, physical and spiritual growth and development, and a lifelong appreciation for the nature around us.

In order for a child to grow, it needs opportunities to go outside. You have to run, jump, scream, dig, explore, discover, climb, experiment and push yourself to the limit. Providing these experiences gives them the opportunity to learn so much about the resources around them and protect what we have here. Some of my best childhood memories came from outside and it’s no accident. Go outside, collect memories and enjoy what nature gives us.