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In the midst of a depressed economic climate, Salmon’s Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Education Center actually saw a boost in the facility’s 2010 revenues.

Center Director Judy Barkley attributes the increase of income to fulfillment of the Learning Center’s promise to generate revenue. Barkley said the people who booked the Center for various gatherings have been pleased with the facility and the staff that is on hand to take reservations and assist with the events. She said the Learning Center is run as a business with attention to having a staff member on duty from 9AM to 5PM five days a week. There is also an answering machine on the Sacajawea Center’s 756-1188 business line and Barkley can be reached anytime on her cell phone number which is 303-0245.

As the Sacajawea Center strives to reach a goal of becoming self sufficient, a program the facility will be hosting this coming Summer is based on that same theme.

“Tough Stuff for Girls” is being funded by the Horizon program’s Steering Committee and is an extension of the Mahoney Family Safety Center’s “Strong Girls Program”

The Tough Stuff course is designed to give girls basic survival and defense skills. It will include instruction on how to survive an unexpected fall into a lake or river, what plants are edible and how to build a fire to stay warm and/or to cook. Barkley said, “The whole course is designed to develop positive self-concept and a good strong self-awareness.” She said holding the course at the Sacajawea Center is really perfect. “We felt that it was appropriate because one of the strongest women ever around was Sacajawea. She’s certainly a good role model for that.”

She hopes the course will also show young women that being a strong, physically capable woman is not a detriment to femininity. “They can develop a sense of being able to take care of themselves which in itself can lead to making better decisions.”

Barkley is also determined to make the Sacajawea Center facility more ‘kid friendly’ by adding special attractions along the trails that are fun as well as educational. She is in the process of writing grants to fund development of such things as a cave, a Beaver lodge and a hollowed out log into which youngsters may crawl. Once inside they would see likenesses of critter inhabitants they could expect to find in those places, namely Beavers and Otters and Muskrats and Ermines. There would be age appropriate signs posted in each of the attractions.

There could also be signs at the Interpretive Center with pictures of featured critters along with a “Can You Find Me?” challenge. Barkley said, “As the kids go out on the trail they’re looking for something and have a reason to be out there.”

Since childhood obesity is one of this society’s biggest problems Barkley feels that adding these features to the Sacajawea Center ties in perfectly with the national drive to get children out of the house and moving.

A springtime event at the Center is being planned for youngsters from Kindergarten age to 10th grade. It will be a three-day Spring Fling especially for those who have no plans to travel during the Spring break from school. Barkley said the event will be full of all kinds of activities. Sign up information for Spring Fling will be made available through the local schools.

The Center’s Heritage Community Garden has become one of its most popular tourist attractions thanks to the many years of work by Candice Burns, Tawna Skinner and countless volunteers.

A more recent addition has been the Kids Garden Program under the direction of Sherry Elrod. It is a separate garden in the same areas as the Heritage Garden and enrollment in the program has grown to the point of having a waiting list. The program is open to grade school age children and older. The students do all the preseason ground preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting and are even instructed in the art of canning.

Skinner has been the director and coordinator of the Heritage Garden for six years and Elrod has been directing the Kid’s Garden program for three years. Neither will be able to continue as directors this year and Barkley is in search of people willing to take over the established programs. She said qualifications for the Kid’s Garden Director include liking to work with children, knowing something about gardening and having the time to devote to the program. The young gardeners meet two days a month for several hours of work each day.

Another local vacancy needing to be filled is that of directing and coordinating the popular Farmer’s Market. Former Farmer’s Market Director Janet Fogel will not be available this season so anyone interested in leading that project may contact Gina Knudson of the Salmon Valley Stewardship office at 756-1686.

Those interested in the Sacajawea Center gardening programs may contact Barkley at 756-1188 or 303-0245.

Barkley said she is gratefully in awe of all the three women have accomplished and sorry to see them leave the programs. She also feels the resulting vacancies should be viewed as an opportunity of new directions and an open invitation for community input.

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