Great outdoors beckons at Fort Vancouver

Annual event encourages getting off the couch, offers activities that encourage physical fitness

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Get Outdoors Day at Fort Vancouver

What: Outdoor activities festival with archery, rock climbing, fishing and tips for how to enjoy the region's parks and forests.

Where: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Visitor Center, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 9

Cost: Free

Information: National Get Outdoors Day

Activities

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 1840s fur trapping camp, reconstructed fort and visitor center, free to the public

10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.: Kids photo ops with Smokey Bear, Ranger Rick and Woodsy Owl

11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.: Historic weapons black powder demonstrations

11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.: disc golf demonstrations

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Oregon Zoo live animals display

Noon to 3 p.m.: Audubon Society of Portland presents Birds of the Northwest

1 p.m.: Prize drawing

1:15 to 3 p.m.: Recycle-man and the Dumpster Divers

2:30 p.m.: Drawing for the REI grand prize

There's a beauty to the vast computer screens, smartphones and gaming consoles that dot the majestic landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

Wait a minute.

Scratch that.

If you haven't seen it lately, there really is a portal to another world not far from your living room.

It's called the front door, and for the digitally inclined amongst us, this weekend is a great time to see what lies on the other side.

Saturday's National Get Outdoors Day has expanded greatly and moved from the city's Water Resources Education Center to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The event, in its fourth year, includes a rock climbing wall, disc golf, archery and fishing, among many other activities.

"There's bird watching, gardening, biking -- there's a little something for everyone," said Kimm Fox-Middleton, a supervisory park ranger at the Fort. "It's a good time for multiple generations and multiple fitness skill levels."

The U.S. Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition created Get Outdoors Day as a way to encourage physical fitness and teach the public about local parks and forests.

About 60 different groups will have booths at the Vancouver event, with information about outdoor activities across Washington and Oregon.

"If you've never done much outside, there are people who can help you get started," said Bev Walker, an educator with the Water Resources Education Center. "There's something there that will get you away from your computer games and electronic devices so you can enjoy being outdoors."

The day coincides with Free Fishing Day in both states, and rangers from the Forest Service will be on hand with two fire tanks with 800 trout so visitors can try their skills at hooking a fish, said Ken Sandusky, a spokesman for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

"We have some fishing poles to give out, so maybe some lucky kids will go home with an outfit and be able to get out fishing with their families," Sandusky said. "The whole idea is to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature, and here in the Pacific Northwest, you don't have to go far to do that."

Beyond fishing, the event coincided with other activities at the Fort, and so the organizers decided to merge everything into one big festival, Fox-Middleton said.

As part of that, rangers from Fort Vancouver will perform black powder weapons displays and re-enactors will create a replica 1840s fur trappers camp.

"The 1840s fur trapper lifestyle is what we would consider recreation now," Fox-Middleton said. "It's canvas tents, chunks of meat on a string, stew in a huge pot. They were hunters and fishers, and we'll talk about that."

Last year, about 2,000 people turned out for the festivities. This year, with the additional events, organizers expect to see 5,000 or more visitors.

"We have a great group of partners and it really has afforded us a chance to go bigger and better," said Pete Mayer, director of Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation. "It's going to be a great day of free fun."

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo or sue.vorenberg@columbian.com