HOPEWELL: Three-day event inspires area residents to unplug, appreciate nature

Hopewell and Pennington residents of all ages will be encouraged to step away from their screens and enjoy the great outdoors through Hopewell Valley Come Outside and Play (HVCOP) from June 7 to 9.

This year, HVCOP has partnered with over a dozen organizations to bring interactive activities for community members to enjoy, allowing them to explore the creeks, ponds, mountains and trails that the area has to offer.

Organized by the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance and Hopewell Valley’s Backyard, HVCOP has been a yearly event since 2010, and allows schools and local organizations to come together and discuss the importance of nature and spending time outside.

Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance coordinator and HVCOP main organizer Heidi Kahme said that the event was partially inspired by literature.

In 2009, students in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) read Richard Louv’s book entitled “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.”

The messages within the book, Kahme said, rang true to people today.

“It discusses the benefits of kids being outside, and how — with screens and video games and the fear of ‘stranger danger’ — kids can’t play freely outside anymore,” she said.

The HVRSD staff invited the Municipal Alliance to assist in planning the event, Kahme said. The Alliance organizes similar events such as Hopewell Valley Night Off — a night in March where no homework is given, no meetings are planned and family time is recommended.

“When I was brought into the conversation, they said, ‘Heidi, you guys do Hopewell Valley Night Off, what if we did one day where the whole community just got outside?’ And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool,’” she said.

Before HVCOP officially begins on Thursday, June 7, three preview activities will be provided to the community on Saturday, June 2 — National Trails Day — and Sunday, June 3.

These previews, such as hiking in Mercer Meadows, yoga in the Thompson Preserve and “rejuvenating” the trails on Baldpate Mountain, will center around the trails that wind through the Hopewell-Pennington area.

The activities on Thursday, June 7 range from seeing the homes of wild animals at the Mercer County Wildlife Center to examining organisms at the Washington Crossing State Park pond.

Residents could also opt for a fun weekend with the Adventure Guides Family Cabin Camp at Camp Mason in Hardwick, New Jersey, which runs from Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10. Community members can participate in boating, an outdoor climbing tower, archery lessons, hiking, apple cider making, pretzel making and more.

“One of our partners is the Hopewell Valley YMCA, and each year they do an annual Family Camp Out,” Kahme said. “The CEO approached me and said, ‘I know it’s not in Hopewell, but we’re certainly encouraging families to get outside.’”

The community can expect to be transported back to the 1860s during the Old Time Baseball game taking place on Saturday, June 9.

The event will aim to replicate a 19th century baseball game, complete with a reproduction of the uniforms and equipment of that time. After the professional old time game, members of the public are also welcome to participate in a game from 1 to 3 p.m., which will include the sport’s early rules.

Howell Living History Farm, a facility of the Mercer County Park Commission, is the sponsor for the event, and Director Pete Watson said the game will give the public a feel for how baseball has evolved over the years.

“It’s a lot of fun, everyone gets to do something that they wouldn’t normally do, which is being involved in something that happened in the past,” he said.

According to Watson, the farm has been organizing the Old Time Baseball games for 32 years; the two teams involve the farm’s interns and volunteers — The Hogs — and members of the public — The Bulls.

In this vintage version, broomsticks will replace bats and bags of flour will replace the bases.

“It’s the kind of stuff you’d have if you had a pick-up game out in the country,” Watson said.

Overall, Kahme hopes the community learns to “appreciate” time spent outdoors.

“Living in a community that has so many open spaces, it makes sense to underscore that importance of being aware of what the community has in our own backyard.”

For a full list of activities, visit https://bit.ly/2INRT4E. Registration is required for some activities; most activities are at no cost and open to all ages unless specified.