Now open for summer fun & education: Racine REC
"Welcome, everybody, to the fifth season of the Root River Environmental Education Community Center!"
With those words, UW-Parkside Community Development Director Mark Gesner threw open the doors to the REC as a source of education and recreation for students and area residents. The REC, located at 1301 W. 6th St. in Racine, exists to increase the amount of time community members spend in and around the ecosystems of the Root River and Lake Michigan to build in them a sense of stewardship.
The first event of the 2012 REC season was a ribbon cutting ceremony involving Racine Mayor John Dickert, State Representative Cory Mason, UW-Parkside Provost Terry Brown, and 6th grade students from the nearby 21st Century Prep School. The ceremony preceded the Paddle with the Provost with Brown leading students, faculty, and staff on a trip down the Root River toward Racine Harbor.
Brown said an elementary school field trip she took gave her a new world view.
"When I was your age, I took a trip with my sixth grade class to Barn Island [Wildlife Management Area] in Connecticut," Brown recalled. "And it changed the way I look at the world. It made me care very much about the water and the landscape and the woods and everything around me. And I hope you'll have that experience when you come here."
21st Century Prep School student Alice Decker has already experienced the magic that can happen at the REC.
"The Root River Center, to me, isn't just any old thing. It's a place where we can actually get outside of our classroom and away from boring textbooks and actually learn about the world," Decker said. "I have to agree with Dr. Brown, it has changed my perspective on the world because before we were just reading about primary succession and blah, blah, blah. Here we can come out and actually see it happening! It's amazing!"
Brown thanked Mayor Dickert and Rep. Mason for their work to open the REC for the season. She also expressed appreciation for a grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board.
After the paddle, the afternoon concluded with a discussion about ways to raise awareness of the REC among residents of southeastern Wisconsin.
"I was particularly encouraged by the discussion we had after the paddle about the possible campus connections to the REC," Gesner said. "If we can work together to create dynamic community based learning opportunities and establish a sustainable operations model for the facility, then I think the university and community can benefit from meaningful learning experiences at the REC for years to come."The Paddle with the Provost was held Friday, May 18. More information about the REC, including hours of operations and available rental equipment, is available on the UW-Parkside web site.