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Outdoor offering focuses on youth

Drought weather across the area didn’t stop youth from enjoying the outdoors over the weekend.
Unicoi County was home to the annual Youth Outdoor Day on Saturday, Sept. 26, at Rock Creek Park.
With different activities during the evening, the event had to go without filling the pond due to recent weather hindrance, according to Richard Lewis with the Unaka Mountain Longbeards chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
“This is an event where we normally try to stock the pool with fish,” Lewis said. “But the drought we’ve been having for the last month, made it unable to put fish in the pool. Rather than cancel the event totally, we kept it going.
“They did testing on the water and there wasn’t enough of an oxygen level for the fish. That’s one of our biggest attractions. Hopefully, next year, we’re looking to move the event in the spring so the water level will be up a little bit more and hopefully we won’t have this situation again.”
The event normally averages around 100-150 participants but with setbacks this year, Youth Outdoor Day was able to net over 50 individuals to come out and take part in the fun, Lewis added.
“Everybody that has come has had an enjoyable time,” he said. “It is about getting in the outdoors, that’s the main thing about this event. “
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Unaka Mountain Search and Rescue, Limestone Cove Fire Department, Trail USA and U.S. Forest Service members were all in attendance with different tents and booths set up. Participants were able to take in inflatable BB gun and archery stations, nature walks and bird watching. Students of the Unicoi County High School also participated with a face-painting booth.
“We’ve been involved with it probably the last eight years,” Lewis said of the Unaka Mountain Longbeard association and the event. “We’ve tried to grow it every year. With the way kids are involved with sports, and indoor activities, we’re trying to get them involved in the outdoors.
“I think events like these are important at this time. There’s so much that parents are involved in and kids are involved with school work and after school activities. Getting outdoors and getting back to nature is the important part of an event like this. The (NWTF) has started a program, which is called Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt, and what we’re trying to do by that is to increase the opportunities for people for land acquisition to have places to hunt and with the Save the Hunt … we’re trying to encourage youth participation in the outdoors. That’s what you see with the BB gun blow-up and the archery blow-up. That’s all part of a trailer we have. This trailer is stationed in east Tennessee and our chapter brought the trailer into the community.”
An experience during the outdoor day is something kids can look back on for years to come, Lewis said.
“A lot of kids haven’t shot a BB gun,” he added, “or they haven’t shot a bow. This is an opportunity for them to experience it, and have fun doing it. We’re just trying to do this to get kids involved in the outdoors.”
The Unaka Mountain Longbeards meet at Clarence’s in Unicoi every second Monday night of the month at 6 p.m.
“Our group isn’t just about a bunch of turkey hunters,” Lewis said. “It is about conservation and doing events like this. These events are welcome to anyone who’d like to participate.”
For more information on upcoming events or the group, contact Lewis at 735-8851.