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The great outdoors

I enjoyed covering the 10th anniversary celebration of the Eureka Ecology Club for some of the same reasons its young members enjoy being part of the club.

It was fun to explore the Eureka Nature Trail that was in outstanding condition, obviously well-maintained by the club. It was quite clean, and roots or bumps in the pathway that may be tripping hazards were spray painted bright orange, making them easily avoidable. There were also impressive, professional-looking signs that occasionally lined the trail, describing a nearby feature of the woods.

Current members are typically in fifth grade and remain active members for a year. It was a treat to speak to both current and former members who were patrolling the trail at the anniversary event. They shared what they learned from the club, and I could tell there was passion for both it and nature.

Helping awaken and foster that passion has been club sponsor and founder Liz Peaden. “I wanted to give children an alternative to school — not just playground activities,” she told me at the event. “I wanted to give them something going beyond that, something that was going back to nature and enjoying the woods.”

What began as something small has grown and not gone unnoticed. The club has gained significant notoriety since its formation, twice being featured in Virginia Wildlife magazine. It is also on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ (VDGIF) school recognition list for Virginia Naturally Schools.

At the top of that list, VDGIF states, “The schools listed below have been recognized for their efforts in supporting environmental conservation and stewardship. … Schools must submit a plan for the following year and carry it through in addition to meeting additional criteria in order to be recognized in additional years.”

Peaden plans to soon expand the benefit of the club to more children in Charlotte County. “I’m going to open up to Bacon District kids next year,” she said.

Titus Mohler is the sports editor for The Charlotte Gazette  and Farmville Newsmedia, LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@TheCharlotteGazette.com.