- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - The Red River National Wildlife Refuge is building a children’s play area with about a dozen outdoor sections.

The Nature Discovery Area’s first phase is expected to be ready for the northwest Louisiana refuge’s open house on Oct. 17, and a public meeting Monday at the visitor center southeast of Shreveport will describe the plans and show people what has been done so far, The Times (https://bit.ly/1Kcd4ZY) reported.

“How else might a kid find out if they like the outdoors and want to consider a profession in it unless they come to an area like this?” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranger intern Dave Young asked. “This will be a fun place where kids can come and interact with natural objects.”

A stone table where children can write or draw with chalk is already in place. Behind it is a small wooden stage where kids can use simple props to create a play.

A flat play space will have a floor of slices of a tree stump and hardened polymeric sand.

“Fire ants, snakes and poison ivy might appear scary to some people who don’t spend a lot of time in the outdoors,” Young said. “We’re trying to provide an area where those things are at a minimum.”

The site is in woods near the refuge’s visitor center.

“We want families to come out and enjoy this area on their own and we also want it to be something school groups can take a field trip to,” Young said.

The refuge is relatively new - the first property was acquired in 2002, and the visitor and education center southeast of Shreveport opened in 2012.

Red River National Wildlife Refuge is made up of four units in the Red River Valley in northwestern Louisiana. The Headquarters Unit is in Bossier and Caddo Parishes, the Bayou Pierre Unit is in Desoto and Red River Parishes, and the Lower Cane Unit and the Spanish Lake Lowlands Unit are in Natchitoches Parish.

Volunteers are doing much of the work on the Nature Discovery Area. Parkway High School student Ryan Black is helping as part of his senior project and is trying to convince other Panthers to assist. Young said the Friends of the RRNWR have also been helping, along with the Nature Explorer organization and the Arbor Day Foundation.

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Online: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/red_river/

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Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

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