In New York's Hudson Valley, kids can explore nature with their library card

Budding naturalists can check out nature in New York’s Hudson Valley with only a library card — and a sense of adventure.

By Kirsten Ferguson November 16

Budding naturalists can check out nature in New York’s Hudson Valley with only a library card — and a sense of adventure. Libraries in Columbia County make nature-based Explorer Backpacks available free of charge, thanks to the accredited Columbia Land Conservancy. The program is funded with a grant from the Conservation Partnership Program (CPP), which is administered by the Land Trust Alliance and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Each themed backpack kit contains supplies and activities for exploring nature. The insect explorer backpack includes a net, a journal and magnifiers to closely inspect insects. The night sky backpack contains a telescope and constellation chart, while the birding pack has binoculars and field guides.

“We wanted to provide resources for community members to get out there and explore the land, without having to spend their own money on equipment,” says Heidi Bock, Columbia Land Conservancy’s director of land stewardship and community partnerships.

The CPP grant also supports the land trust’s work to develop new community programs based on the backpack themes and install Nature Quest trails at 10 public conservation areas.

“We developed the Nature Quest program as a sort of treasure hunt on the public conservation areas over a decade ago,” says Bock. “We’re bringing it back, and better than ever. During the pandemic, visit rates to our sites nearly doubled, and we’re really excited to be able to provide another way for our community to experience nature.”