The leaves are almost gone from the trees surrounding the boardwalk path at Hillside Park, the lake will soon freeze over at Lackawanna State Park and although portions of it were closed over the summer for maintenance, South Abington Park will soon re-open, the grounds anticipating inevitable blankets of snow.
A trip to the park may not be at the top of most families’ “to do” lists of winter activities, but according to Diane Vietz, vice chair of the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board, the organization responsible for Hillside Park, there are more experiences to be gained at local parks during the fall and winter than one may realize.
“We should all explore the outdoors all year round,” she said. “There is really a lot to discover and be exhilarated about in winter.”
She said it’s important for people of all ages to get out of the house and into the fresh air regularly, even in the colder and seemingly dismal times of year. Taking a trip to the park helps to not only maintain one’s health, but to keep him or her connected with the natural world.
“It makes you feel alive and helps with keeping a good attitude through the winter,” Vietz said. “Isolation indoors is not a good thing.”
According to the Lackawanna State Park’s website, dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/lackawanna/, winter activities available there include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice fishing and ice skating.
“When conditions permit,” states the web page, “park staff clear an area of ice near the fishing pier for skating. Always check the ice thickness before traveling on the ice. Ice thickness and conditions are not monitored. For your safety, carry safety equipment and be sure ice thickness is at least four inches thick. Ice under the PA 407 bridge is unsafe all winter.”
South Abington Township Manager David O’Neill said the Twp. hopes to re-open the South Abington Park by winter. He said although the park doesn’t specifically offer any winter activities, sledding is available, but limited, and people can still enjoy many of the same activities they do in the summer.
In previous years, an ice skating rink and fireplace were offered at South Abington Park, but O’Neill said those are no longer available. The most popular activity, he said, is dog-walking, which is important for pet owners year-round.
Vietz recommended several activities for kids, teens and families to try at Hillside Park or their local parks during the fall and winter months:
Sports: Hillside Park hosts Abington Area Girls Softball, Junior Comets Soccer, and the Abington Youth Soccer league. The turf and fields are open for groups to rent or individuals to use with respect to the posted rules.
Walking: Take your dog for a walk in the dog park, or go on a hike with your family on the boardwalk trail at Hillside Park or one of the other area park trails.
Ice fishing and skating: Always check the ice thickness for safety first. These activities are performed at your own risk at local parks.
Play in the snow: Make a snowman, snow angels or snow fort or find a gentle hill or slope to sled down.
Birdwatching: Don’t forget your binoculars!
Kite flying: So what if it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground? Why not?
Geocaching: Learn about this popular worldwide treasure hunting activity at geocaching.com.
Ice art: Color water with food coloring and freeze it in various shaped containers such as ice cube trays or buckets, then bring the colored ice shapes with you to the park and put them together to make new shapes and designs. Then add water to the overlapping pieces so they will adhere together.
Bark rubbings: Hold a piece of paper against a tree trunk and rub a crayon over it to capture the patterns of the tree bark. Then go online or check out a book from the library to help learn how to identify trees based on bark patterns.
Scavenger hunt: Gather your friends and make it a friendly competition. Just remember, the goal is to have fun!