Sara Grover is seen leading a snowshoe hike for families last year. A similar hike (with or without snowshoes, depending on snowfall) is planned for Sunday, March 4, from the trailhead in Preston. Some of the other activities in the series later in the year will look for wildflowers and birds. (Bluff Country Reader photos by Lisa Brainard)
Sara Grover is seen leading a snowshoe hike for families last year. A similar hike (with or without snowshoes, depending on snowfall) is planned for Sunday, March 4, from the trailhead in Preston. Some of the other activities in the series later in the year will look for wildflowers and birds. (Bluff Country Reader photos by Lisa Brainard)
The Root River Trail and its branches wind their way through beautiful country in this area. A new program starting in March and continuing once a month through September will share many of the natural facets it offers.

You may have noticed a flyer for the "Root River Trail Family Program Series" which says: "Seasonal activities will introduce participants to outdoor skills while helping children and parents develop an awareness of our natural resources including the river, wildflowers and birds."

Plus, activities will include learning to trout fish, a wildflower walk, bird watching, geocaching, a bike rodeo and trail ride, and more.

Sara Grover, a naturalist at Whitewater State Park who lives near Preston, is heading up the series. Grover also started the Project GO program, which gets quite a few younger school children outside on adventures.

"The state (Department of Natural Resources) is trying to do more outreach with trails," she stated, nothing the state parks and trails have joined into one DNR division.

"We want to help people explore and understand what they can see and do. We're offering a whole series of things."

The once-a-month series for families - and especially families with young children - will meet at the Preston trailhead of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail, a branch of the Root River Trail system.

"We're looking at getting local families involved," said Grover, noting the series is not advertised in any kind of publication outside the local area. Also, information is being sent home through community education departments at area schools, as well as through Public Health.

"It's free and it can bring the local community together."

If families discover something they're really interested in, they can follow up at other locations on the trail system, or at an area state park. However, Grover notes the trails are free and don't require a vehicle tab like state parks do.

"Did I mention? It's free," emphasized Grover with a laugh.

She said other programs on the Root River Trail in both Lanesboro and Whalan will be announced as summer approaches. And if someone is interested in some type of specific activity, contact Grover to see if it has potential for a program.

"We want to find the needs of local families," she stressed.

The first program on Sunday, March 4, requires registration for snowshoes. Grover laughed and said that unless there's significant snowfall between now and then, it will probably go ahead as a winter walk. Dreaming of snow, she stated, "But it would be fun for people to try something new."

Helping with the series are Fillmore Central Community Education, Fillmore County Public Health, Fillmore County 4-H, the National Trout Center of Preston, Preston Emergency Services and Rushford-Peterson Community Education. Grover said each of these will help with programs in some manner.

For more information, or to sign up for the snowshoeing or bike rodeo program (bring your own bike), call Whitewater State Park at 507-932-3007, Ext. 226, or email sara.grover@state.mn.us