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Children take to the trees at Priest Point Park

Kyler Elliott ponders the climb 50 feet up into a mature Douglas fir tree during the Olympia Park, Arts & Recreation’s Kids Canopy Climb educational event at Priest Point Park in Olympia on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.
Kyler Elliott ponders the climb 50 feet up into a mature Douglas fir tree during the Olympia Park, Arts & Recreation’s Kids Canopy Climb educational event at Priest Point Park in Olympia on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. Staff photographer

Olympia’s Priest Point Park is typically a hub for families on most sunny Saturdays.

Parents and children explore hiking trails, walk the beach, play on the playground or gather for picnics.

But on Saturday, the children didn’t just stay on the ground as they enjoyed the warm weather. Many were hoisted into the treetops as part of the third-annual Kids Canopy Climb, an event hosted by Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation.

Ranger Sylvana Niehuser said the goal of the event is to connect children with nature and give them an appreciation of the world that surrounds them.

“This is a unique opportunity to recreate in a way that doesn’t harm the environment,” Niehuser said.

The 32 children who participated were outfitted in rock climbing harnesses and helmets, then clipped to a rope. Olympia parks employees and volunteers hoisted the young canopy climbers to a branch about 50 feet in the air, where they met a “canopy greeter.”

Niehuser said each child was given the option of spending 15 minutes in the tree, talking to the greeter about the trees, the view and wildlife.

Steamboat Island resident Riley Hildenbrand, 8, said she was scared at first to spend time in the tree. But once she calmed down, she had fun — and even wished she had been able to climb higher.

“It was scary, but then I got used to it,” Riley said. “Then I felt like I was only a foot up in the air.”

Parks department employee Genevieve Becker, who came up with the idea for the canopy climb, said she hopes to develop the one-day event into a summer camp sometime in the future.

“Ideally we would have more than one day to teach tree climbing well,” Becker said.

She’s also hoping to establish a canopy climb for adults.

“I love doing this, spending time in the trees,” Becker said. “It makes me really happy to share it with others.”

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445

adickson@theolympian.com

@Amelia_Oly

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