I grew up in a very rural area. My play place was mostly on my parents’ property, an old farm, but we occasionally made our way to the local state park for swimming, picnics, hiking and other fun. As a child, I loved it. As a teenager with a much younger brother, I felt it was torture. As a parent, oh, I get it now. My husband and I frequent out local state park, at least once a week, because it’s the cheapest, easiest way to get the kids into nature and out of our hair.
That makes it sound like we don’t like our kids. We do. A lot. But there’s something about fresh air and a bunch of wide open space to do any number of things that we simply adore.
My husband introduced me to Salt Fork State Park shortly after he moved me to Ohio. I remember winding out the long road to the lodge, amazed at the number of deer that were grazing alongside the road, not bothered at all by our slow moving vehicle. Since that time, we’ve seen more deer.
And done a billion and one other things with our sons.
We’ve gone hiking with our oldest son on my back.
We’ve taken the boys to ride horses at a special event.
We’ve taught the boys how to fish.
We’ve tromped around in the lake in firefighter rain boots.
We’ve laughed really hard while swimming in the water at the lake beach.
We’ve eaten sand.
We’ve released balloons for Maddy.
We’ve geocached. We’ve gone — just the two of us — and stayed overnight at the lodge for a grown-up, not-so-far-away getaway. We’ve just taken a drive. We’ve had family pictures taken. We’ve taken other peoples’ pictures. We’ve had picnics. We’ve attended a wedding. We’ve gone to birthday parties at the indoor pool. We’ve gone on a photo walk — or twenty. We’ve driven down roads that we didn’t know where they would lead us. One time, we were so caught up in enjoying the fall scenery that we almost ran out of gas. Oops?
In short, we love Salt Fork State Park. A lot. In spring, summer, fall and winter.
I tell you all this now because Coca-Cola is hosting the America Is Your Park campaign which lets everyday people vote for their favorite park. Which ever park earns the most votes this year will win a $100,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Live Positively initiative and a second place winner will get $50,000! To boot, one lucky park in the Top 25 will be selected at random to win $15,000! The initiative wants to improve the places where people go to play, and I can think of nothing more awesome than simply voting for the place where you already go to play with the chance that they could win that much money. I already voted for Salt Fork State Park. You can vote for any park of your choosing — big or small — which I think is just awesome. There’s an interactive map that lets you search for a park by name, by city or by zip code. Then you simply select which one you want to vote for and, bam! You’re done!
So go vote now for the park of your choosing. And then encourage those in your community — the people that you know already love and utilize the park — to do the same thing. It’s really that simple (and there’s no registration required to vote; though, a tip: the captcha entry to cast your vote requires caps lock).
I’d love to hear if you go vote — for your park. Or, you know, mine. I also love to hear what people do at their favorite parks, so don’t hesitate to share a story with me.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only legal residents of the 50 U.S. (and D.C.) who are at least 13 years old and reside within the U.S. at the time of participation are eligible to vote for a Park. Participate on behalf of a Park by: July 15, 2012. The 3 most popular Parks will be offered a grant and there will be 1 Wild Card drawing at the end of the Contest to award an additional grant. To participate, for Official Rules, and complete details including grant descriptions, visit www.LivePositively.com/parks. Void where prohibited.