Upshur County families with kids under 18: Have you picked up your free seasonal pool and Wildlife Center passes yet?

BUCKHANNON – Now that summer break has arrived, it is time to get out and get active. And what better way to usher in the summer than to take the family somewhere local to have lots of fun, learn about animals and get plenty of sun and exercise?

With that in mind, Upshur County Schools is inviting students and their families to stay active by providing some free passes – for up to six family members – to enjoy the West Virginia State Wildlife Center and the Upshur County Recreational Park.

Upshur County Schools teamed up with the Upshur County Commission and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to offer free family season pool passes to the Upshur County Recreational Park and free family season passes to the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.

The free passes are available at the Upshur County Board of Education Office, located at 102 Smithfield St. in Buckhannon. Passes are available Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Kristie Tenney, president of the Upshur County Commission, said the partnership for the free family passes was developed when the Board of Education approached the commission asking to partner to provide families with the opportunity to be active over the summer.

“We want local families and their students to be able to enjoy some of the recreational amenities the county has to offer at the Upshur County Recreational Park,” Tenney said. “We hope the park facilities will be enjoyed by all.”

The Upshur County Recreational Park is located adjacent to Buckhannon-Upshur High School at 308 B-U Drive and hours for the pool are Monday through Sunday from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. According to their Facebook Page, the Upshur County Pool and Recreational Park were constructed in the early 1980s after receiving a grant from Senator Rockefeller IV, who was then serving as governor. The Park features an Olympic-sized swimming pool, small and large pavilions, a playground, a basketball court and tennis courts.

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center is in French Creek and is open daily from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The Wildlife Center website said the facility is a modern zoological facility displaying native and introduced state wildlife. It says woodland wildlife can be viewed along a wheel-chair accessible interpretive trail that travels through a mature hardwood forest – which is 1.25 miles long. In addition to the exhibits, the Wildlife Center offers a large, wooded picnic area with grills and a shelter.

Superintendent of Upshur County Schools Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus said the passes are valid for up to six family members for each facility.

“I believe the pass to the West Virginia State Wildlife Center is good for one year once it is picked up,” Stankus said Wednesday. “A lot of people have already stopped by the Upshur County Schools Board of Education Office to pick up their passes today.”

Stankus said the goal is to get Upshur County students and their families out for the summer.

“We have been through a rough year,” Stankus said. “We really want the students to spend time away from their computer screens, enjoying the outdoors. This will help get the students engaged and enriched. We want to enrich their experiences.”

Along with the pool at the Upshur County Recreational Park, Stankus said there are biking trail and hiking trails that will lend themselves to lots of family fun.

“Those areas have been developed as well by volunteers in the community,” Stankus said. “We want to keep the money we received for student enrichment in our county so with that in mind, we wanted to buy the pool passes and keep our money here. The grant money came from the CARES Act.”

The CARES Act, short for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 116th U.S. Congress in March of 2020.

Stankus wanted to remind everyone that students 18 and under are welcome to come to the schools for a hot breakfast and lunch each day for the next five weeks.

“We have every school in the county open this summer,” Stankus said. “We are fully operational and have a secretary, teachers, custodians and a principal in each school during these five weeks. We are feeding everyone age 18 and under, with a hot breakfast at 9 a.m. and lunch at noon. Anyone who wants to come to the school and eat can do so, whether they are enrolled in the summer academy or not.”

On Wednesdays, parents and guardians may pick up seven-day food boxes for their students over the summer.

Additional information and questions about the free passes can call the Upshur County Board of Education Office at 304-472-5480.

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