GOAL Day at North Park to kick off the summer

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Allegheny County wants its residents to learn how to enjoy the great outdoors and the county parks amenities.

It will offer its inaugural Get Outside and Learn, or GOAL Day, on Saturday, the first day of summer, at North Park. The event is free, and people of all ages and abilities are welcome.

The event is a chance for county residents to learn about and, in some cases, try out activities including kayaking, paddleboarding and yoga, the county said.

Some of the organizations participating in the event are the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission to demonstrate basic fishing skills; the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club to lead an activity using a map and compass; and the L.L. Bean Outdoor Adventure Club, which will offer kayaking, fly casting and paddleboarding activities.

“This is the day to come out to talk to people who are involved in those activities,” said Kevin Evanto, chief marketing officer for the county.

The event emerged from a goal of county Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s administration to get more people engaged in using the county’s nine parks and its Live Well Allegheny program, which encourages people to be active and lead healthy lifestyles, Mr. Evanto said. Recently added attractions at North Park include the Go Ape Zip Line, which opened in spring 2013, and the OTB Bicycle Cafe at the North Park Boathouse, which opened last fall.

Gary Rigdon, chairman of the Friends of North Park group, will teach bicycling 101, covering the basics such as types and their purposes. He also will lead courses on whitewater kayaking and cross-country skiing.

“That might sound a bit odd, because there’s no whitewater in North Park,” he said, but kayakers should start out on flat water before building up to whitewater, so he’ll go over the skills and the equipment needed.

“This is a great opportunity to get some instruction, and get it from an objective person, who only wants to help you out and not sell anything,” he said.

Larry Gioia of Dynamic Paddlers, an organization that specializes in adaptive kayaking for children and adults with disabilities, ranging from veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to children with autism, also will participate in GOAL Day.

“Kayaking is a very easy way to level the playing field for people with disabilities,” he said. Gioia will not provide instruction Saturday, but people may sit in the boat to experience the special seat and learn more about adaptive kayaking and other sports.

People also will be able to participate in hands-on “primitive survival skills,” such as making paint and grinding corn, at a W.E. Hands-On Education exhibit, said its director Monica Colberg. W.E. stands for Wachtschu Ehachping, meaning “Mountain Place” in the Native American Lenape language.

“If we have a really great turnout and people have a really great time and the organizations respond well, we would like to see this become something that we do every year to really kick off summer and call attention to parks,” Mr. Evanto said.

The Steel City Road Runners will start the day with a 12- to 15-mile run at 8:30 a.m., and activities will be offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tennis Court Road will be closed between the North Park Boathouse and Walter Road to create a pedestrian thoroughfare and a space for events. Participants should park in the boathouse or Rose Barn parking lots on Pearce Mill Road.

There will be a county information booth at the end of the boathouse parking lot, next to the lake, with maps and schedules of events. The schedule is available online: www.alleghenycounty.us/​spev/​goalday.aspx.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.

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