Athens ROCKS

Here is the “K” in “Athens Rocks!”, cleverly hidden at the base of a tree. Even this nearby cyclist may have missed it.

Grab your socks, shoes and a mask, Athens area residents, and head out into the city of Athens for a touch-free rock hunt.

There are a dozen rocks scattered throughout the city of Athens’ public lands. Each brightly-colored rock spells out part of the phrase “Athens Rocks!” The goal behind the rocks are to keep residents active, engaged and present in their community, in addition to promoting physical activity for the warming weather.

A “treasure map” has been posted to the city’s social media accounts and website to provide hints on where the 12 rocks can be discovered. Participants are tasked with finding all twelve. Those who want can post photos to social media for friends, family and the group behind the project to follow along online, although the city’s release warned that any photos posted to the event page on Facebook could be used for future marketing material or award submissions.

There are only two conditions for the hunt:

  • Leave the rocks behind for others to find
  • Take only pictures, leave only memories

The project is organized through the Arts, Parks and Recreation Department and was funded by a grant from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Foundation. The grants were awarded to 22 Ohio parks and recreation departments earlier this month and are to be used for assisting parks and recreation departments across the state with continuing programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Foundation provided a total of $10,000 worth of emergency grant program funding to assist departments across the state. The city received $1,000 for supplies, marketing and potential extras to add to this program, according to one of the project leads, Erin Helms, who is also the program specialist for sports and fitness at the Athens Community Center.

Also involved were Laura Sowers, Program Specialist for Children and Family; and Emily Beveridge, Program Specialist for ARTSWest.

“Many departments have frozen spending to counter the loss of revenue streams,” the Foundation’s press release concerning the grant application stated. “The foundation has set up ten $1,000 grants to assist departments with seed money to start new programs aimed at assisting parks and rec users and visitors with recreational opportunities, whether that is online or in person.”

Helms said the idea came about during a Zoom meeting held by the Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation Program Specialists.

“We discussed various ideas of programs we can do to engage the community while also following CDC guidelines,” Helms said. “We wanted to hone in on each of our areas of specialty (Children/Families, Fitness/Sport, and Art) on this project. Someone started with scavenger hunt that then transpired into the program we have today called ‘Athens Rocks!’.”

Helms noted that a main tenant the planning committee adhered to was that it was accessible to people of all ages and abilities, as well as something that could be completed alone or as a “quaren-team.”

“We immediately started pulling supplies together, painting rocks and talking about where to place them,” Helms said. “We created a map to help guide users to the rock locations which highlight the many accessible recreation and leisure spots throughout the city of Athens.”

Not all went according to plan during the rollout of the rock-hunt — Helms noted that the rocks were placed prematurely, and a few started to go missing.

“We had to revamp our strategy and paint new rocks that were much larger (and heavier),” she said. “We adjusted our strategy to place the new rock, signage and post on social media at the same time. That being said, please do not take the rocks. Leave them behind for others to find — take only pictures, leave only memories.”

Anyone out and about is encouraged to follow social distancing safety guidelines, wear masks and try not to touch things. Guidelines for safe practices included not gathering in public areas, keeping at least six feet of distance between individuals and passing on the bike path and other paths in single file, to increase distance.

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