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Drop the tech for a day and introduce the family to the incredible outdoor venues OKC has to offer



Sever your ties with modern-day distractions, and take in some fresh air. Oklahoma is home to many incredibly beautiful hiking trails, off-road bike venues and fun lakes for sailing and kayaking.

"We have so much land space here in Oklahoma City," said Jennifer Lindsey McClintock, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department. "There's a lot to do right here close to home."

Despite the array of opportunities to step outside, we are watching more television than ever. Last year, the average American watched more than 151 hours of TV every month " a record high, according to a study by The Nielsen Company, the world's leading media-information company. Not only are we watching too much TV, but our smart phones are attached to our every move.

Now that the cold weather is behind us and school is coming to an end, there's no better time to give your brain a rest. This is a perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy what's right here in our neighborhood.

"There's so much to do around here; you just have to get out and find it," said Walter Jacques, Oklahoma City resident and avid outdoor enthusiast. "Being outdoors is a great way to decompress. It gives me time to reflect and rejuvenate."

Thanks to the MAPS 3 initiative, the trails will "certainly benefit from a funding perspective," McClintock said.

The MAPS 3 one-cent sales tax increase, which started April 1, will go toward many projects around Oklahoma City, including 57 miles of new public bicycle and walking trails, which will complete the city's master plan for connecting and building a healthier community.

With the money, the city's trails are going to be "a very well-connected system," said Randy Entz, a transportation planner with the Oklahoma City Planning Department. "We have a lot of good things in store."

Take a break from the stress of life and carve some time to connect and play in the great outdoors of Oklahoma.

"There's just a sense of freedom and peace being in the outdoors," Jacques said. "You just have to get out there and experience it."

If you're ready for an outdoor adventure, there's plenty to choose from " whether you're looking for a walk in the park or a physical, off-road challenge in the woods. These are just a selection of parks close to home.

Martin Park Nature Center, 5000 W. Memorial, is a secluded spot for hiking and wildlife watching. See butterflies, catch a glimpse of deer and maybe even hear the hoot of an owl along the dirt trails. Near the visitors' center, take a peek at the colorful birds that congregate by the bird-watching wall.

Named a top 10 regional park by National Geographic's "The Best of Everything for Families," Martin Park offers visitors three and a half miles of hiking trails that wind through woods and grasslands. There are also frequent guided hikes. The next is a night hike planned from 9 to 11 p.m. June 5. Call 755-0676 to reserve a spot.

Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge is "a place for people to get out and really get in touch with nature," McClintock said. "If it's raining, be ready to get muddy."

Stinchcomb, which extends north of Lake Overholser, is perfect for hiking and biking. You can also rent a kayak for exercise, or enjoy some freshwater fishing.

"This is the best-kept secret in the metro area," Jacques said. "It's a real gem. On any given Saturday, I can paddle my kayak into the refuge and see all sorts of wildlife."

Bluff Creek is great for off-road cycling and running. Its trail is three and a half miles of natural packed dirt, located about a mile west of Lake Hefner Parkway. This multi-use trail offers challenging turns and moderate technical sections for avid mountain bikers.

A new section of trails to the park opened earlier this year. The expanded Bluff Creek Park has one mile of multi-use, paved trail, and is great for runners and walkers.

The loop trails at Lake Stanley Draper offer outdoor biking and hiking. Challenges and adventures await on this natural trail, which consists of three loops (ranging from easy to difficult). Cyclists and runners can explore the trails and get about 12 miles under their wheels or feet without seeing the same scenery twice.

With so many hiking and biking options close by, you'll forget all about the TV sitting unused in your living room. "Valerie Kramer Davis

Outdoor high
Introducing your kids " and yourself " to the outdoors is good for the soul and your relationships.

" Wide-open spaces " By having safe, clean spaces outdoors, Oklahoma residents are encouraged to exercise more. Walking, biking, kayaking, canoeing and fishing are enjoyable pastimes that offer significant health benefits.

" Look and feel great " According to the American Hiking Society, "Hiking is a great way to lose a few excess pounds, thereby improving your physical appearance." In fact, according to the American Hiking Society, when hiking a comfortable 2 mph, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn about 240 calories per hour.

" Closer family ties " "Families that play together, stay together." There's truth to this old adage. Participating in outdoor activities together offers opportunities to grow and share experiences, further strengthening relationships.

" Catch some rays " Nature provides fresh air and sunlight " keys to providing necessary vitamins that our bodies need. Just 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight is enough to meet your daily Vitamin D needs, which help to maintain normal blood levels and strong bones.
"Valerie Kramer Davis

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