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Explore the St. Croix River Valley Art Bench Trail this summer

At the booth (from left to right) are: Danny Wahlstrom, youth volunteer from Dresser, Wis.; National Park ranger Donyal Eret; Annabel McManus, youth volunteer from Cushing, Wis.; and Abby Glaysher, National Park Service park guide intern. They set up to work with community members to create macrophotography of invertebrates at Rhubarb Days June 3 in Osceola, Wis. Photo courtesy of The Phipps Center for the Arts

Visit unique works of art, explore natural and historic sites, and experience small towns through the Art Bench Trail of the scenic St. Croix River Valley.

Eight community art projects are located in parks and other special sites, adjacent to trails, paths, playgrounds and river towns with local shops, restaurants and cultural venues. The Art Bench Trail is presented by the Phipps Center for the Arts in partnership with the National Park Service and St. Croix Valley Foundation.

Special events are planned at the benches this summer and fall, including a series of free Books and Benches programs presented in collaboration with local libraries, and hands-on Pop-up Art + Nature activities offered during community events. For more information, including a schedule of special events, directions, stories behind each bench, as well as art and nature activities to do independently at the benches, go to artbenchtrail.org.

For the Books and Benches events, families are encouraged to gather at the benches, listen to stories and take home free books. These events are scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Mondays, June 19 and 26, in Somerset; 11:15 a.m. Wednesdays, July 12 and 26, in Hudson; 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 21, in Prescott; and 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, in Bayport, Minn. During each event, the local children's librarian will hold a storytime program and a National Park ranger will engage youth in hands-on art and nature activities. By participating, children will earn their very own junior ranger badge.

A junior ranger badge may also be earned by completing four junior ranger Art Bench Trail activities when visiting the benches. These art and nature activities can be found at artbenchtrail.org. Once someone has completed four or more activities, they may email their name, age and mailing address to SACN_info@nps.gov, and a badge will be mailed.

Pop-up Art + Nature activities are hands-on opportunities for all ages to learn about nature and be creative. National Park Service rangers will facilitate these activities at the art benches during several community events, including from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, at St. Croix River Fest in Hudson; 1-4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at Fair Day in Bayport; and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at Carpenter Nature Center's Apple Fest in Hastings, Minn.

Youth volunteers ages 12-18 are being sought to work with National Park rangers at the Books and Benches and Pop-Up events. This is an opportunity for youth to teach children and other members of the community about nature through hands-on art-making experiences. All youth volunteers will earn a junior ranger badge, and a special reward for all youth volunteers will be an end-of-summer kayak trip with a ranger on the St. Croix River.

To sign up, contact Anastasia Shartin, visual arts director at The Phipps, at 715-386-2305 or ashartin@thephipps.org. This youth volunteer program is a partnership of The Phipps and the National Park Service, with assistance from UW-Extension Polk County.

For more information, go to artbenchtrail.org, call Anastasia Shartin at 715-386-2305, or stop by the center.

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