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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access in Texas Hill Country

 YOUNG PEOPLE IN CREEK
Campers catch macroinvertebrates in the refuge creek. Photo by Jennifer Brown/USFWS

If you live in a city and don’t drive or if you have one of a number of disabilities, making a connection with nature is not just hard, it can seem downright impossible.

Fortunately for young people in the Texas Hill Country facing significant access challenges to the outdoors, Candlelight Ranch is there to provide them with therapeutic and educational nature-based experiences.

And this summer Candlelight had a new partner –Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge and the ranch connected 426 campers to their National Wildlife Refuge. They spent two days a week enjoying the refuge’s accessible trails and overviews, and participating in activities designed to teach them about endangered species, water quality, careers in conservation and more.  

The refuge quickly made fans. “This is the happiest adventure I’ve had,” 10-year-old camper Kierra said of the refuge aquatic insect catching activity, Added fellow 10-year-old Melonie: “I liked catching baby frogs.”

And it wasn’t just campers. “I enjoyed learning something new,” said camp counselor Marcy Rodriguez.

The ranch partnered with the refuge because we share the goal of connecting children with nature. It is important to us that the public have the opportunity to enjoy public lands. Candlelight Ranch provides that opportunity to children who are new to the outdoors to in a way that is safe and fun.

And campers like Kierra and Melonie now have that connection with nature .

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