Round Lake State Park and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have been partners in outdoor education for five years. Round Lake hosted its first Winter Tracks in 2015, and manager Mary McGraw has enthusiastically kept it going.
“We love to have Friends of Scotchman Peaks come out with their Winter Tracks program,” McGraw said. “It’s wonderful. A favorite part of my job is to see youth coming to the park.”
Winter Tracks is aimed primarily at elementary students, though high school students have participated, too. Round Lake has hosted classes from Clark Fork, Sandpoint and Spokane.
Round Lake roads and parking lots are open year-round, and the staff takes special care to make them winter safe with plowing and sanding. When busses arrive at Round Lake, McGraw and her staff — Audra Razo and Bart Gutke — make sure they can safely enter and exit.
The park is well suited to Winter Tracks. Each day includes four modules drawn from a selection including tracking, avalanche safety and awareness, tree identification, winter birding, native mammals, orienteering and Leave No Trace principles. The Park’s riparian zones, forests and open spaces are ideal “classrooms.”
The Headquarters and lakeside pavilion provide shelter against nasty weather. The staff makes sure there is plenty of firewood at the pavilion to keep students warm on the chilly days. The park also recently added more covered space. A new porch at Headquarters provides enough room for a class in nasty weather. A new picnic shelter above the lower parking lot is the site of this year’s avalanche awareness class.
“Our mission at the park is to encourage people to come out and add to their quality of life through outdoor recreation and resource stewardship,” said McGraw. “The kids coming to the park in the winter is exactly what we need to be doing.”