April 19, 2016

Touch of Nature to host open house, paddling event

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Paddling across the water, rock climbing, zip lining, interpretive hikes and assorted other adventures await participants at a free May 7 event at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. In addition, SIU’s Student Center, in conjunction with Touch of Nature, is hosting the Reel Paddling Film Festival, a documentary short film tour, and a silent auction on May 6. 

The Breaking the Surface Paddling Event and Open House will take place at Touch of Nature, located along Little Grassy Lake about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. It will showcase the experiential learning facility and some of the numerous services and programs offered there. Everything is free and open to the public. 

Newcomers and paddling enthusiasts alike can participate in the “Breaking the Surface” community paddling event. Everything you need to get on the water is provided, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, standup paddleboards, personal flotation devices and paddles. Check-in is at 1 p.m. with a welcome at 2 p.m. and open paddling to follow. 

Participants are encouraged to bring snacks, water bottles, sunscreen and either water shoes or other footwear they don’t mind getting wet. Paddlers may also bring their own watercraft but if they do, it must have a Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge sticker or a day pass, which paddlers can acquire at the event. A paddler’s social is set for 5:30 p.m. 

Throughout the afternoon, visitors are also welcome to explore the grounds and learn more about all that Touch of Nature has to offer. You can test your skills at the rock climbing wall from 1 to 5 p.m. or participate in an interpretive hike along the Rocky Ledges Trail: guided hikes will be offered between 2:30 and 5 p.m. or you can explore on your own. Get an exhilarating new view of the camp while zip lining, open from 2 to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be available for purchase throughout the afternoon as well. 

There will be free shuttle transportation available for SIU students from campus to Touch of Nature and back on May 7. The shuttle will depart from the bus stop in front of the Student Center at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Return trips from Touch of Nature to the Student Center are set for 2:10 p.m., 4:10 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. and the bus should arrive on campus within about 20 minutes.   

The Reed Paddling Film Festival World Tour 2016 comes to the Student Center Auditorium on May 6. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with a silent auction featuring a variety of items. Proceeds will benefit Touch of Nature. 

The film fest kicks off at 7 p.m. and includes a wide variety of movies, each lasting just a few minutes and showcasing different topics. The independent flicks are all water-related, showing activities including kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing. All are characterized by impressive cinematography and encourage viewers to explore and appreciate the waterways around them, according to festival organizers.  

Admission is $2 for SIU students and $3 for community members. Tickets are available at the door.  

The SIU Sustainability Office is playing a part in both events as well. The office is sponsoring WOW (Watching our Waste), a new pilot program to highlight sustainability concepts and reduce waste, and both of the May events will have a WOW component. 

To learn more about Touch of Nature’s Breaking the Surface Paddling Event and Open House, the Reel Paddling Film Festival or the numerous programs, facilities and services at Touch of Nature, visit www.ton.siu.edu, call 618/453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu