BENTON, Ark. (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission) – A growing partnership between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the City of Benton is taking a fresh approach to parks and recreation planning that incorporates much more than traditional sports and outdoor venues. Thanks to instruction and assistance from AGFC educators, Benton residents can now learn skills in fishing, archery, hunting and other outdoors pursuits in addition to traditional offerings.
Municipal parks and recreation agencies throughout the nation are known for fantastic amenities and classes for traditional sports such as basketball, golf and tennis. They also provide great getaways for people with trails, ponds and picnicking areas to enjoy some fresh air.
“The partnership really began in 2018 with the Family and Community Fishing Program, which is now part of our Fishing Education section,” Hollie Sanders, AGFC assistant chief of education, said. “Benton’s River Center Recreation Complex worked with Clint Coleman and Maurice Jackson at the AGFC about creating a series of classes for youths from 4- to 13 years old and their parents to really learn about fishing from a point of having no knowledge of where to get started.”
According to Coleman, AGFC assistant program coordinator for the Family and Community Fishing Program, the classes were a departure from the normal fishing derby experience the AGFC typically provides.
“Instead of just providing fish and one opportunity, we were able to provide much more one-on-one instruction and see the kids start to catch on first-hand as the weeks progressed,” Coleman said. “It really was more about teaching a person to fish, and training the people at the center to have the knowledge and confidence to take on classes of their own in the future.”
This year, not only is Benton Parks and Recreation taking the reins on their own instruction, but they’re also incorporating the AGFC’s popular patch program to reward participants who achieve various levels of experience in different outdoor activities.
Sanders said the partnership paved the way for the AGFC to offer statewide outdoor recreation training to all city park and recreation professionals, empowering them and connecting them with resources in fishing, archery, recreational shooting and outdoor education. This opened the door to more outdoor recreation programs planned throughout the state through city park and recreation departments.
“We do dozens of workshops each year to give teachers and homeschool groups lesson plans they can use to help get people started in the outdoors,” Sanders said. “But this showed us the potential available in parks and recreation departments to help carry the spirit of the outdoors to even more people.”
For more information about the Benton Parks and Recreation Department’s River Center or to sign up for one of their outdoor workshops, visit https://www.bentonar.org/departments/parksrec.
Contact Sanders at email@example.com for more information on getting your local recreation department involved in AGFC programs.