Rockin' Utah a family affair
As an adolescent psychiatrist in Salt Lake City, Rene Valles understands the value of spending time with family. Two years ago, he was searching for a program that would be fun, educational and serve as a memory maker for his children.
He stumbled upon the Rockin' Utah program offered by Utah State Parks while cruising the Internet.
"It seemed like a great opportunity to spend time with my family and at the same time get out and see what Utah has to offer," Valles said. "It has been a great experience. I'm not only learning more about Utah, I'm also learning more about my kids."
Utah State Parks launched Rockin' Utah in 2009 as an effort to get children and families outdoors. The 2012 Rockin' Utah season is under way, and Valles, his wife and four kids are already signed up for two activities.
As program veterans, the Valleses qualify for Rockin' Reunion. These programs were set up to allow past supporters to stay involved after some new rules were implemented for 2012.
To allow new families to experience popular events, past participants are precluded from signing up for something they have already done. Families are also limited to four events per calendar year.
"We want as many people as possible to experience these activities," said Justina Parsons-Bernstein, of Utah State Parks. "To show the people who have participated in the past we still appreciate them, we created the reunion events."
The Valles family members plan to take part in the reunion camping event at Wasatch Mountain State Park in June. They are also signed up for the last event of the 2012 season, a Bats and Bikes program at Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab.
Valles said his children ages 11, 10, 7 and 3 initially doubted their father's decision to sign up for the program, but soon changed their minds.
"They kind of undervalued the opportunity, but once they went to the first event, they loved it," he said. "They wanted to go back to the park even without a special event."
The Valleses bought an annual Utah State Parks pass and have explored other parks on their own.
Searching for scorpions at night with black lights and catching crawdads at Scofield State Park are among their Rockin' highlights. They also enjoyed Camp Floyd-Stagecoach Inn State Park and Museum in Fairfield.
"I'm really interested in American history and I had no idea of the story behind Camp Floyd and how it fits in Utah history and the pre-Civil War era," Valles said. "We got to wear Union or Confederate uniforms and do marches. The kids enjoyed getting an understanding for some of the challenges soldiers faced during those times."
Parsons-Bernstein said more changes will be announced for the 2013 season. Instead of all Rockin' Utah events being managed through the main office in Salt Lake City, each park will be create and run its own program.
"There is an opportunity for us to do hundreds of events," she said. "We are also looking for partners to help us provide equipment to help get families started in the activities they are participating in."
Valles, who moved to Salt Lake City from California 12 years ago, is excited about the changes and says programs such as Rockin' Utah help set apart Utah State Parks from his home state.
"It has been everything I had hoped for and more," he said. "Opportunities like these keep my family here rather than going back to California."
Rockin' Utah 2012 schedule
Utah State Parks is offering the following events as part of its "Kids in Nature" program. The events are designed for children of all ages and are family-friendly. Visit stateparks.utah.gov/rockin-utah for more information. Call 801-538-7428 to register.
May 19 •Get Wet/Get Safe Personal Watercraft Certification at Utah Lake State Park 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. $30 per person. Must be at least 12 years old. There will be a few PWCs on hand to practice on or bring your own. Limit 20 participants. Lunch will be provided.
June 2 •Fish and Fly for Free Fishing Day at Yuba State Park, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., $10 per person. Start the day with a fishing introduction by park staff and then enjoy fishing on your own. (June 2 is free fishing day, so no fishing licenses are required.) Poles will be available to borrow; bait will be provided. At 1 p.m., meet at the North Beach Area to fly kites with your family. One kite will be provided per family and feel free to bring your own. Limit 30 people.
June 2 •Fish and Fly for Free Fishing Day at Hyrum State Park, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., $10 per person. Start the day with a fishing introduction by park staff and then enjoy fishing on your own. Poles will be available to borrow; bait will be provided. At 1 p.m., families will be encouraged to go fly a kite. One kite will be provided per family and feel free to bring your own. Limit 15 people.
June 2 • Leapin' Lizards It's Rockin' Reptiles at Snow Canyon State Park, 10 a.m. to noon, $5 per person. Learn about reptile adaptations then take a hike to look for reptiles. After the hike, participants will play a reptile game and craft their own snake to take home. Limit 20 people.
June 9 & 23 • Paddling in the Park at East Canyon State Park, 10 a.m. to noon, $5 per person. Life jackets, canoes and kayaks will be provided. A parent or legal guardian must accompany youths. Limit 20 participants.
June 9 •Fishing the Fleet at Red Fleet State Park, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., $5 per person. Learn how to correctly set up a fishing rod, bait a hook and cast in the rocky, rugged surroundings of Red Fleet. All anglers age 12 and older need a valid Utah fishing license to fish. A parent or legal guardian is must accompany youths. Limit 20 participants.
June 9 • Secret Female Thrill Seekers' ATV Ride at Wasatch Mountain State Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., $40 per person. Youths must have completed ATV certification. Limited to six female youths ages 12-16 and their parent or legal guardian. The event starts with a one-hour training at Cascade Springs. ATVs will be provided. Please bring a helmet or provide helmet size when registering.
June 9 • Off-Highway Motorcycle Tread Heads at the Jordan River OHV Center, 8 a.m. to noon., $10 per person. Must be at least 8 years old. Limit 20.
June 22-23 •Camp-N-Fish-A-Palooza at Rockport State Park, overnight event, $20 per person. Tents and RVs welcome. No hook-ups, but water is available on site. Event highlights include interpretive program from 8-9 p.m. Friday night; breakfast provided Saturday morning; learning three different fishing techniques from riverbanks, on boats and from the shoreline. Some poles available to borrow, but please bring a pole if you have one. Bait will be provided. Anglers age 12 and older need a valid Utah fishing license. Bring your own camping gear and food for Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch. Limit 40 people.
July 7 •Rockin' Reunion Fabulous Fishing Event at Hyrum State Park. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., $5 per person. If you participated in a ROCKIN' fishing event, you are eligible for this outing. Bring potluck items to share for barbecue picnic at Hyrum State Park. Limit 50 participants.
June 15-16 •Rockin' Reunion Family Camping Adventure at Wasatch Mountain State Park, two-night event, $20 per person. This two-day mountain getaway family camping adventure is packed with activities for families who have camped before at a Rockin' Utah event. On Friday, set up camp, get to know other Rockin' Utah families and enjoy the park. Saturday activities include a nature hike, field games and a Dutch oven dinner. Limit 125 people. Twenty tent sites and six RV sites available.
Aug. 11 •Get Your Motor Runnin' ATV Ride at Wasatch Mountain State Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., $40 per person. Meet at 10 a.m. at Cascade Springs. Registration is limited to six youths ages 12-16 and an accompanying parent or legal guardian. The event starts with a one-hour training. ATVs will be provided. Bring a helmet or provide helmet size when registering.
Aug. 11 •Utah's Most Dangerous Catch Crayfish Anyone at Scofield State Park. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., $5 per person. Fishing will last about two hours followed by lunch, which will include the crawdads caught. Limit 20 participants.
Aug. 18 •Epic Sunset Plant and Animal Discovery at Antelope Island State Park, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., $5 per person. Meet at Fielding Garr Ranch at 5:30 p.m. to hike the 6.5-mile (round trip) Sentry Loop. Children must be old enough to hike on their own. This hike will take us approximately 3.5 hours.
Aug. 26 •Apple Harvest at Wasatch Mountain State Park, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., $5 per person. Get outside and pick heirloom apples during this hands-on harvest at historic Huber Grove. Enjoy some history, play old-fashioned games and make a simple, healthy treat with the harvest. Limit 40 people.
Sept. 7-8 •Bikes and Bats at Dead Horse Point State Park., $20 per person. The event will start with a late-evening program about bats. Saturday morning will include mountain bike safety training and a ride on the Intrepid Trail. Limit 25 people.
Rockin' Utah 2012 schedule
Utah State Parks is offering the following events as part of its "Kids in Nature" program. The events are designed for children of all ages and are family-friendly. Visit stateparks.utah.gov/rockin-utah for details. Call 801-538-7428 to register. To see a full list of activities, see the related stories link above or read to the end of the story.