Joanna and participant during nature program at Hazel Landing Park.

Explore. Engage. Connect — With Nature

Register our Current Nature Programs

Reimagining Recreation: Innovative New Program Brings Nature to Your Workout and Beyond

If we’ve learned from the past couple of years, it’s that being adaptable to meet the ever-changing programming needs and wants of our community is crucial. Our program participant’s priorities and circumstances have continued to evolve and CCPR’s recreation program offerings have been reflective of those evolving needs.

“We saw a marked decline in registered program participants dropping from nearly 31,000 in 2019 to approximately 11,000 in 2021,” shares CCPR marketing and communications director Jylian Riches. It was time to reevaluate what programs we could offer over and above what folks could find elsewhere in the community—and to focus on what our leadership and staff are experts in. That’s how we began to develop a new thought leadership approach to recreation programming called Reimagining Recreation.”

Joanna Scott works with Pollinator BioBlitz participant to identify an insect.Reimagining Recreation is CCPR’s innovative and financially sustainable new approach to programming that focuses on four main areas of expert focus: Nature Education, Aquatics, Inclusion, and Fitness/Wellness. The twist? Future programming will aim to delight participants through various category integrations, with an emphasis on nature-rich experiences – think yoga in the park!

Creating exciting and innovative programs that reengage the public in a way that is meaningful and holistically beneficial is key to Reimagining Recreation. Let’s explore how nature is the connector in enhancing participant health and wellbeing.

Nature Serves as the Backdrop

Explore. Engage. Connect. The foundation of Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s mantra to explore, engage and connect promotes active and hands-on participation and its recent dedication to Reimagining Recreation is no exception. Through a fresh lens focused on new nature program offerings, it’s easy to see how nature plays such a crucial, integral and exciting role in bringing together nature and wellness, nature and education, nature and volunteerism/stewardship and everyday nature interaction in our lives.

“Nature is the glorious setting and backdrop for so many new nature programs we will be offering this spring and summer,” says CCPR natural resources coordinator Joanna Scott. “Over the past few years, for many individuals including children, the need and desire to connect with nature has been magnified. Through reimagining recreation and specifically in our nature programming overall, I think we really understand how nature plays such a connective role in our mind-body-spirit collective health and wellbeing.”

As CCPR core values, sustainability and an ecological approach are at the heart of the new programming for recreation. While program attendance numbers saw a decline in recent years, the new structuring allows for the programs themselves to grow and be sustainable and successful through more engaged participants.

“These reimagined programs showcase how nature can enhance all activities and bring an added dimension of learning and wonder,” says Scott. “Nature is the platform for us to become more mindful and to assess and appreciate the role it plays in our everyday lives and integrate it into the other activities we are already doing and enjoying.”

On the Trail to Fitness Participants

Nature programming is now represented by its own four pillars:

  • Nature Wellness
  • Nature Education
  • Nature Stewardship
  • Nature Interaction.

This summer, you can explore and choose from a variety of nature-based programs that blend nature with your favorite activity whether you are 5 years old or 95. Let’s explore these four nature pillars and how they will be part of the programs we’re offering this summer.

Nature Stewardship

Our volunteers and sustainability stewards make our CCPR nature programs possible. Whether you grab your wheelbarrow and rake to keep our mulch surfaces fresh or lend some “get your hands dirty” assistance for tree plantings, park beautification and maintenance, you can make a difference in the community. If you are waiting until summer is in full swing, you’ll find we could use your help at West Park for clean-up, invasive plant removals and trail maintenance.  And let’s not forget that summer is the perfect time for a weed wrangle both in our parks and at your home! Learning what weeds/invasive species are harming our plant environments and human health.

Programs offered through nature stewardship/volunteerism:

  • May Mulch Madness
  • Summer Solstice
  • Weed Wrangle

Nature Education

From a hike to learn more about forest ecology and work to restore native habitats to reimagined and refreshed offerings at Central, West and Meadowlark parks, there is something for everyone of all ages to get outside and enjoy and learn. If becoming a citizen scientist learning more about water quality and our Hoosier Riverwatch program through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is the hands-on, investigative activity you are looking for — have we got experiential education opportunities choices for you.

Programs offered through nature education:

  • My Park Series
  • Citizen Science
    • Hoosier Riverwatch Invertebrate Study
    • Hoosier Riverwatch – Prerequisite for Citizen Science

Nature Wellness

Whether you are taking your pen and paper out into nature for some nature-based inspiration for your next journal entry or illustration, taking an activity-filled hike while learning about nature surrounding your journey, or celebrating Sun Salutations during sunrise yoga to greet the day we’ve found educational and exciting ways to connect nature and a focus on wellness.

Programs offered through nature wellness:

  • Nature Journaling
  • Fitness Hike
  • Sunrise Yoga

Nature Interaction

Discovering the wonders of nature for kiddos and watching their youthful curiosity spark their interests is at the heart of our popular, hands-on, educational knee-high naturalist program. If you are looking for something for all ages—join us for National Pollinator Week to learn about which pollinators call our prairie home! If Moth Week is more up your alley, grab your moth ID book and join CCPR staff to see which moths call Bear Creek Park home.

Programs offered through nature interaction:

  • Knee-high Naturalist
  • Pollinator Plants in our Prairies
  • National Moth Week

Nature Front + Center

Through CCPR’s focus on Reimagining Recreation, our innovative and connected nature programming offers a full-plate nature experience whether you are looking to enhance or combine:

  • Nature and your fitness workout
  • Learning more about how nature impacts our parks and your own environments
  • Giving back by sharing your time and treasure in assisting CCPR in maintaining our parks
  • Getting up-close-and-personal with species in their own habitats

It starts with taking the time to look through nature’s lens when thinking about your next workout, educational experience or hands-on interaction with flora and fauna, and letting the experts at CCPR teach, guide, and share a completely new way to think about nature. It’s time to do a little reimagining of your own and try something new! We can’t wait to see you in one of our new programs soon.

Check out our Program Guide for more information on classes. 


Written By: Sheryl Rodgers
Sheryl focuses on branding and marketing engagement. She’s a storyteller, editorial and media consultant, and brand builder. This story was written in partnership with Pickett & Associates.