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Camps let kids learn, explore
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Camp instructor Nikki Belmonte, right, walks up Sawnee Mountain with a group of campers Thursday. - photo by Jim Dean

For camp listings or to register, visit the calendar at or call (770) 781-2217.

Sports camps always popular
Forsyth County also offers several sports camps, including Sandlot Day Camp, a new week-long summer offering where children can play several sports.
James Parks, youth athletic coordinator, said spaces are still open for all camps. Parents can register at Central or Sharon Springs parks.
All five county high schools are also holding programs for several sports, including baseball, softball, football, lacrosse and cheerleading, among others.
Parks said overall, parks and recreation has sports programs for children ages 5-14.
“We have always heard great responses for our camps,” Parks said. “Everyone has always had a great experience and we hope to continue that.”
The parks and recreation activity guide can be viewed online at or call (770) 781-2215.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

Marching into Sawnee Mountain Preserve Visitor Center on Thursday, three boys wearing matching camouflage hats were ready to take on the woods.

“The boys are really excited about it,” said mother Gillian Norrie of the day’s itinerary to hike up the mountain and learn about rabbits.

Her 8-year-old triplets filled their backpacks and water bottles to join fellow summer campers this week for Explorer Camp, a week-long day camp throughout the park.

With local schools out for summer break, the camp is one of several this season that let children ages 4 through 17 explore the outdoors.

Some camps still have spots available, though many are at or near capacity, said Carrie Toth, program supervisor.

Offered through Forsyth County, the camps are an opportunity for younger residents to explore a public resource at a discounted rate, Toth said.

Children like to show their parents what they’ve done and learned, she said, something that brings families back to the nature park.

“I didn’t know it was named after an Indian,” Kim Arispe said while dropping off 8-year-old daughter Melody at the park.

“It was a man named Sawnee,” she said. “He was a Cherokee Indian.”

Arispe said she hadn’t been to the mountain before registering her daughter for the camp. But now she plans to return.

Her daughter has been thrilled with the camp so far, telling stories about each day’s adventures.

“She dissected a frog,” Arispe said. “She said it was awesome, but a little icky.”

Toth said the programs aim to provide a learning experience for the campers.

“But we don’t want them to know that they’re learning,” she added.

As campers crowded around the habitats of Soup, a baby turtle, and Bella, a tarantula, parks and recreation staff members talked about the animals.

“It’s a great teaching camp ... compared to other camps where they just do crafts,” Norrie said. “They come home and they tell us stuff.”

She said her boys have learned much, but have also been able to try new things at the familiar park. Among them: tree climbing and the canopy walk.

The preserve will hold an event for those activities Saturday, when Norrie hopes to come back with the whole family.

Jake Neblett, 9, said he was suspended as high as 200 feet in the tree. That was one of his favorite parts of camp so far.

His father, Steve Neblett, said he’s enrolled his son in several sports camps before, but this is his first time roughing it.

“It’s a different experience for him,” he said. “It gets him out in the woods to experience some things he hasn’t done.”