Kids Almanac: Go wild at Duck Pond, be earnest, and arrive early for the bunnies & chicks

Photo of baby bunny by Dion Ogust.

It is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world.

– Rachel Carson


Have you been to Duck Pond in New Paltz with your kids yet this year? It’s a wonderful time to go, because the water is teeming with all sorts of wiggly new life right now: minnows, young fish, salamanders, frogs and cool bugs. Bring a net and a bucket to get an up-close and personal look at some of the critters that you find, being sure to return them gently where you found them. When you finish your amateur oceanography, the log benches make for a pleasant spot to rest and eat a picnic lunch.

To get there, you drive to Pine Road, off Butterville Road in New Paltz. (Don’t waste your time looking for all of the pine trees; the road is named for the people that lived here, not the evergreens.) There’s an unofficial parking area at the very end of the road. Close to the beginning of the trail, you pass some structural remains, which I’m told are the Pine family’s former home. It was later purchased as an office for builders of the aqueduct right behind it (the gravity-fed channel supplying water from the Ashokan Reservoir to New York City).

When I’m with my kids, the walk is around 30 minutes from our car to Duck Pond. (Another Fun Fact: There are no ducks at Duck Pond.) I always carry our Mohonk Preserve membership card with us on this hike, in case I’m asked for it. But I’m also proud to show it to my kids as a symbol of our support of this special place. You can purchase a membership card or a Day Pass at the Mohonk Preserve Visitors’ Center on Route 44/55.

My friend and local Mom Kate sums up Duck Pond this way: “It’s a great distance for little legs; nice to be able to bring the [leashed!] dog along; fun to see a bit of history along the way; and there’s always something new to discover at the pond!” For more information, visit


Discussion on getting kids out into nature next Tuesday at Halfmoon Books in Kingston


If you’re not sure about venturing in the woods with your kids, even to Duck Pond, then this event might be of special interest to you: My friends Nora Snyder, Jess Iaia of Halfmoon Books and I have organized a “Spring Trio of Book Discussions.” Please join us for our second gathering, a conversation about Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, on Tuesday, April 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Halfmoon Books.

Nora says, “I’m excited to discuss this book that feels so right for this time of year, as we all enjoy the beautiful weather and budding plants. Our relationship with the natural environment is such a universal concern, and I love focusing on our kids and the gifts we can all enjoy by exploring the perspective described in the book.”

I personally appreciate the book’s reminder of the incredible value of exploring the outdoors with my children while not feeling responsible for knowing the name of every leaf, flower or bug. After last week’s star-filled overnight with my son’s Wild Earth program, I feel even more excited and committed to just getting out there with my children.

For more information about our free Spring Trio of Book Discussions or to pick up a copy of the book, contact Halfmoon Books at (845) 331-5439, find the store on Facebook or stop by at 35 North Front Street in Kingston. To learn more about Last Child in the Woods, visit


Fine dining for all


I am different, not less.

– Temple Grandin


Dining out with children can be a challenge, especially if your family includes a loved one with special needs. Coppola’s Ristorante in Hyde Park wants to help. It has partnered with the Anderson Center for Autism to become the first business certified as an “Autism-Supportive Environment.” This new program is designed to help businesses provide basic supports to make a family comfortable at their establishments. The Anderson Consulting team educated Coppola’s staff about autism, assessed the environment of the restaurant and provided adaptive tools that would help an individual with autism feel more comfortable. Changes might include providing a place for a person to pace; creating a picture menu to assist in communicating dining selections; and providing adaptive utensils to accommodate a person.

“I think that a restaurant that is autism-friendly will also make it accessible for everyone, including families with young children. With three young children, I find it difficult to find restaurants that are comfortable for all of us; and on top of that, one of my children has autism, which tends to eliminate most places. I can’t wait to go to Coppola’s with my family, knowing that we will be made to feel welcome rather than judged,” praises Ruth Quinn, administrator of, a local forum for families with children who have any type of special needs.

Coppola’s Ristorante is located at 4167 Albany Post Road (Route 9) in Hyde Park. For more information, contact Coppola’s at (845) 229-9113 or visit To learn more about the Anderson Consulting team, call (845) 889-4034 or visit



High Falls Firehouse hosts 4-H Club’s Spring Fun Festival this Saturday


If you are looking for a sweet event to do with your family that honors the passage of spring, this is a good one (warning: the adorable factor is pretty high). The Feathered Friends 4-H Club of Ulster County invites families to celebrate the arrival of spring at its ninth annual Spring Fun Festival. I suggest that you bring your camera so that you can record all of the oohs and ahs over baby chicks, rabbits and other animals. There are wonderful little games and activities that you can do, too, like learning about rabbit care, planting seeds and making a bunny-ears hat.

The event takes place on Saturday, April 7 and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’ve learned to arrive on the early side because my kids insist on doing every single activity, and the older they get, the longer they require for their increasingly complex egg-dyeing designs. The cost is $6 per family. The Spring Fun Festival goes on rain or shine and takes place inside the High Falls Firehouse, located at 1 Firehouse Road in High Falls (one block south of Route 213). For more information, call Annie Mardiney at (845) 943-8098 or Jenny Lang at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County at (845) 340-3990.




See Stone Soup this Saturday & next at Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck


My kids are so engaged when they have the opportunity to watch other children perform. It inspires them to see their peers doing something that they haven’t tried before. So I’m confident that they’ll enjoy Stone Soup by Kids on Stage at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. Kids on Stage is the Center’s youth theatre program, and its presentation puts a spin on the classic tale. Its version, written by Karen Boettcher-Tate, includes dragonslayers, knights, princes and a gentle chef.

Surprise twist: The dragonslayers are females in disguise! Babette Fasolino, education director at the Center, explains, “What’s interesting about this play is that it shows young women in positions of strength and males with a gentler, kinder nature than we often see in some fairytale plays. And of course, there’s a good-versus-evil message, as well as a theme of compassion that makes this such a touching story.”

Stone Soup takes place at the Center on Saturdays, April 7 and 14 at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $7 for children and $9 for adults and seniors. The Center is located at 661 Route 308 in Rhinebeck. For tickets or for more information, call (845) 876-3080 or visit



Join reading of Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest Elting Library in New Paltz this Saturday – or see the play at SUNY-Ulster in Stone Ridge next week


In the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Algernon defends his piano skills by saying, “I don’t play accurately – anyone can play accurately – but I play with wonderful expression.” If that line made you smile, perhaps you would love this play as much as I do. This comedy is about two men in England during the late 1800s who create imaginary lives to capture the attention of two young ladies. Their stories spiral out of control, until a surprise twist at the end poses an important question to each man.

I am hosting a table reading of Earnest on Saturday, April 7 at the Elting Library in New Paltz at 4:30 p.m. What’s a table reading? Each role will be assigned to one or more people (depending on the turnout), and we read our lines out loud for the duration of the play while sitting around a table. I have enough books for each character, but you are welcome to bring your own.

This event is free and open to anyone who enjoys reading aloud. All are welcome, including spectators. Interested youth participants must be accompanied by an adult caregiver. Bring a water bottle for yourself. Elting Library is located at 93 Main Street in New Paltz. For more information, e-mail me at [email protected].

And it so happens that my favorite play is also being performed locally! SUNY-Ulster presents The Importance of Being Earnest from April 12 through 22 in Quimby Theater on the Stone Ridge campus. Youth ages 12 and up would enjoy the humorous wordplays and the layered plot. Tickets cost $10. SUNY-Ulster is located at 491 Cottekill Road in Stone Ridge. For tickets or for more information, call the box office at (845) 688-1959 or visit



Poughkeepsie’s Adriance Library hosts Susanna Leonard Hill next Wednesday


It’s National Library Week, and the Adriance Memorial Library is hosting local children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill for a special visit. On Wednesday, April 11 from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. in the Adriance Children’s Room, Hill will read from her popular children’s picture books, including Can’t Sleep without Sheep. This interactive family program includes songs, puppets, artwork and fun insights into the book-writing process. Can’t Sleep without Sheep is funny and clever, filled with personality and great pacing for children. Says Hill, “As a children’s author, one of the best parts of my job is getting to visit schools and libraries and share my love of reading and writing with kids. I’m looking forward to a fun-filled evening at Adriance!”

Each child will leave with a special treat from the Library. Admission to this event is free and no registration is required, and books will be available for purchase. The Adriance Memorial Library is located at 93 Market Street in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 485-3445 or visit To learn more about the author, visit




Erica Chase-Salerno lives, loves and laughs in New Paltz with her husband Mike and their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected].




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