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American Canyon Park Foundation helps ease back-to-normalcy for families
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American Canyon Park Foundation helps ease back-to-normalcy for families

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AMERICAN CANYON — As people are re-emerging from their enforced hibernation and seeking a return to “normal,” the American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation is launching a Summer Kickoff Celebration to help with that.

“The isolation has been a challenge for people during COVID, and the message we’ve heard from people is they’re missing events and activities that allow them to socialize with other people," said Foundation executive director Janelle Sellick.

As part of recovery efforts, the Foundation has launched StoryWalk, a permanent outdoor installation that simultaneously supports literacy, outdoor time, family connection, physical activity, and awareness of the city’s parks — plus it’s free, Sellick said.

Users start with the first couple of “pages” of the featured book that’s displayed on a kiosk, and then move on the next pages elsewhere along a path.

Open since May 21, the system was installed by the Foundation’s volunteer board and staff members, with sponsorship by Redwood Credit Union.

“You deconstruct a children’s book, weather-proof it and post it along a trail or path. In our case it’s in Shenandoah Park with 16 displays, each of which has two pages of a book,” Sellick said. The inaugural story is "How Do You Wokka Wokka" by Elizabeth Bluemle.

All the books are geared to kindergarten through elementary school-aged children, and the activity is designed for use by families.

“We choose from a series of books offered by a firm we contracted with that ensures all copyright rules are followed,” Sellick said. “We picked this book because it's upbeat tone celebrates the unique individuality of each character, and encourages kids and families to dance and move along with the pages."

Kristen Guiterrez and her daughters Aubrie, 6 and Avery, 2 ½, have already tried out the new StoryWalk and declared it a winner.

"We were so excited to see StoryWalk in the park since my girls love being outside,” Guiterrez said. “They are excited to see what the next book will be and hope that it will get more families outside."

The books will be changed out every three months, Sellick said. The next one is "Mouse House Tales" by Susan Pearson.

“We liked the outdoor theme, since StoryWalk is in a park, and it’s a common thread in what we chose – exposing kids to wildlife, plants and other outdoor themes,” she said.

“The City of American Canyon is fortunate to have incredible partners like the American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation in our community,” said City Manager Jason Holley. 

“In the future, we’re excited about related community activities we can tie in, like holiday themes, community artwork, the possibilities are almost infinite, and the best thing, it’s completely free for anyone in the community,” Sellick said.

Started by Anne Ferguson of Vermont, Storywalks can be found in all 50 states and in 13 countries, and counting, and has been growing in popularity since the outbreak of COVID-19, Sellick said.

“It ranges from very simple with temporary wood structures to weatherproof, permanent kiosks like ours,” she said. 

Besides getting people outdoors to connect with nature and supporting literacy, each page of each book contains interactive elements, Sellick said.

“Like if there’s a bird in the story, they’ll be asked to flap their wings like a bird, so children can connect with the activity in an even deeper way,” she said.

StoryWalk will officially launch June 18 with a Summer Kickoff Celebration event, which will include a ribbon cutting, and guided read-and-walks with dignitaries like Mayor Leon Garcia, the American Canyon Police Department and its mascot, Lobo the Wolf, Sellick said.

Also kicking off at the event is the Foundation’s Summer Park & Play program – a mobile recreation van, providing Stay and Play activities, she said. It will be at a different park every other Friday through summer, starting at Shenandoah, then Community Park 2, Main Street, Gadwall Park, and Northampton.

“With loosening COVID restrictions we are encouraging families to come play with us,” she said. “We have family games, like ‘kick croquet,’ Imagination Playground, Big Blue Blocks, and the Kona Ice Truck will accompany the van. There will also be live music. Eat beforehand or pack a picnic and spend the evening playing and socializing.”

“We ask everyone to be safe,” Sellick said. “There will be hand sanitizing stations, and we’ll encourage social distancing as needed, but we’re just excited to welcome the community back together after a year of COVID challenge. It’s time to have fun and reconnect as a community.”

For more information, visit acparks.org.

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