Each Tuesday and Thursday at the Grain Valley Community Center, a tight knit family of friends come together in the afternoon to play pickleball. On the court, it’s serious business, but off the court these friends say they’re a family. On Thursday, the group of friends celebrated a special birthday for one of their own.
Erika Davis turns 95 on Saturday, and a cake and decorations welcomed her as she arrived ready to play.
Davis joked she was actually turning 59. “I was 49 for many years, but now I’m 59,” Davis said.
Joe Thomas, who has played pickleball at the Center for many years, said Erika’s family has planned a party for her this weekend, but they felt the need to celebrate as well.
“We all said, we’re a family, let’s have one of our own,” Thomas said.
Thomas taught his grandson, who is now at West Point, to play pickleball and ping pong.
“Now I can’t beat him at either one. He told me, ‘Well, you did too good a job at teaching me’,” Thomas said.
As Davis chatted with fellow teammates, Patti Garrett and Michelle Rollins marveled at Davis.
Garrett, a retired school bus driver, plays nearly every day at either the Community Center or the Blue Springs Fieldhouse.
“She is such an inspiration to all of us. At 70, I want to continue to play pickleball for the next 25 years,” Garrett said.
Pickleball’s increasing popularity comes from the quickness in which it can be learned, the fast paced nature of the game, and its accessibility to players of all ages.
“It can get very serious, but it is fun. Several of us have had busted wrists, busted heads,” Garrett joked. “But when we do get knocked down, we all come together to take care of each other.”
Rollins agreed. “We are like family. When someone is out injured or sick, we all come together. One person says, ‘I’ll come over and take out the trash.’ Another says, ‘I’ll be the one to walk the dog.’ It’s as much about the camaraderie as it is the game.”
While it is a tight-knit group, and game time is serious business, both Garrett and Rollins are quick to say that new members are always welcome and everyone there is willing to teach newbies the sport.
Pickleball is held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00pm – 3:00pm at the Community Center, 713 Main. It is $2 per participant, and free for Silver Sneakers, Silver & Fit, and Renew Active members.
For more information on all the senior activities offered at the Community Center, visit www.cityofgrainvalley.org or call 816-847-6230.
Erika Davis (center in orange pickleball shirt) is greeted by friends for an impromptu birthday celebration. Davis turns 95 this weekend and plays pickleball at the Community Center twice a week.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Erika Davis (fourth from left) celebrates her 95th birthday with her pickleball family on Thursday afternoon. Photo credit: Patti Garrett
Davis in the midst of a pickleball game. Photo credit: Patti Garrett
Popsicles in the Park
Bring your little one for family fun time in the park! We will make new friends, hear a special story, and enjoy free popsicles! After, feel free to stay and play as long as you would like. A parent/adult will need to stay with their child(ren) and enjoy the fun!
Ages: Family (Story will be geared toward younger ages: 2 to 7 years)
When: Tuesday, June 15 @ 6:30pm
Where: Armstrong Park Gazebo
Registration: Pre-registration is not needed - just show up and have fun!
Red Cross Blood Drive
“A single pint can save three lives; a single gesture can create a million smiles!" Please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter: GrainValleyCommunity to schedule an appointment today. Presenting donors will also receive a free Worlds of Fun Ticket, while supplies last.
When: Wednesday, June 23
3:00pm to 7:00pm
Where: Grain Valley Community Center
Pokemon Engineering Lego Camp
Join Ash and Pikachu as you build, capture, train, and explore the vast world of Pokemon with tens of thousands of LEGO® parts. Design your own Poke Balls, explore the Kanto region, and fly with Charizard.
Explore engineering through the fun world of Pokemon with the guidance of a Play-Well instructor. (All materials used are the property of Play-Well TEKnologies and are not for sale or distribution. Students will not be able to keep LEGO materials.)
Ages: 5 to 10 Years (Boys & Girls)
When: Monday, June 28 - Thursday, July 1 (4-day camp)
1:00pm - 4:00pm Each Day
Where: Grain Valley Community Center
Fee: $120.00 Per Participant
For more information on these and other Parks and Recreation programs, visit www.cityofgrainvalley.org.
The Grain Valley Aquatic Center opens for the season on Saturday, May 29th with normal operating procedures returning in 2021. Gone are the distanced “family pods” on the deck, and loungers are once again available so families do not have to bring their own chairs. Masks are not required for patrons.
Open swim hours are Monday—Sunday from Noon—6:00pm. Hours are subject to change once Grain Valley Schools return for the new school year in mid-August. The last swim of the year will be on Labor Day from Noon—4:00pm.
Call the community center or visit their website (816-847-6230 or https://bit.ly/3ovc6SE) for more information and to get signed up for swimming lessons, water aerobics, season pool passes, and private pool rentals.
by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) will host a native plant sale from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City. Visitors can peruse the plants that vendors bring, but they can also pre-order online or by phone from participating vendors and pick them up at the event.
Native wildflowers and grasses offer lovely blooms, colors, and textures in landscape garden plantings. Many will benefit from some tender care in the days after planting, such as watering and removing weed competition. Kansas City’s up and down weather can stress new plantings. But once established with deep roots systems, natives can often survive weather variances better than non-natives. Using a variety of plants can extend blooms in the garden from spring into autumn.
Another benefit from native plants, shrubs, and trees is that they benefit songbirds, butterflies, and other urban wildlife. Many non-natives do not host insects that are vital food for songbirds during spring nesting season. They also are not host plants for butterfly and moth larvae.
At the May 15 event, visitors can talk with MDC staff, MPF volunteers, and vendors about natives. Knowing what plants work best in soil and sunlight types can make a big difference in growing success. COVID-19 safety protocols such as physical distancing and face masks will be followed.
The participating vendors and their contact information for preordering:
GALLENA'S GARDEN: View the plant list here and email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail) by Thursday, May 13. After ordering, they will send an invoice for the purchase.
OZARK SOUL: Order via email or phone by noon on Friday, May 14: email@example.com(link sends e-mail); 816-809-4062, Please visit https://www.ozarksoul.com/availability.php for a current availability list. In your email or voicemail, please include your phone number and note the date and location. After your order has been placed, Ozark Soul will email you to give you the payment details.
MISSOURI WILDFLOWERS NURSERY: Order by calling 573-496-3492, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail), or online here by Wednesday, May 12: https://mowildflowers.net/
ALLENDAN SEED COMPANY: Please email email@example.com(link sends e-mail) to request current prices and available mixes. https://www.allendanseed.com/.
COLONIAL GARDENS: More information coming soon. Visit https://colonialgardenskc.com/.
CITY ROOTS, LLC: Order online by Thursday, May 13: https://www.cityrootsnursery.com/plants-for-sale.
GREEN THUMB GARDENS: Order and pay online by Thursday, May 13: https://store.dtekc.com/.
To learn more about the Missouri Prairie Foundation, visit Home - Missouri Prairie Foundation (moprairie.org). For information about using native plants in landscaping, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zc8.
by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Dip a paddle on the water or watch a bobber float on top, enjoying nature will be celebrated at a Get Outdoors event from 10:00am—3:00pm on Saturday, April 24th at Lake Remembrance in Blue Springs.
This free event is offered in partnership by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Blue Springs Parks and Recreation, and Jackson County Parks and Recreation. Activities will be on the shores of Lake Remembrance at Gregory O. Grounds Park, off Interstate 70 and Adams Dairy Parkway.
Visitors can learn an outdoor skill or simply celebrate springtime in Missouri. Connect with nature through outdoor skills taught at this event. Activities will include kayaking, fishing, target archery, atlatl, and outdoor yoga. Experts will also teach about wild edible plants.
This event is open to all ages and families are welcome to attend. Registration is not required.
MDC and partners will provide gear required for the activities, or participants can bring their own. COVID-19 protocols such as physical distancing and face masks will be observed.
For more information, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zz8.
by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
A veteran of parks and natural resource management has joined the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) team. Sam McCloskey is the new manager for MDC’s Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs. McCloskey is a Missouri native with extensive experience working in Colorado state parks. He began his new duties in March.
McCloskey grew up in the St. Louis area and was a frequent visitor to the trails and exhibits at MDC’s Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood. That part of his youthful outdoor adventures helped lead to an interest in conservation and how people interact with the natural environment.
Supervising exhibits and programs at Burr Oak Woods give him a chance to carry those influences forward.
“The nature centers that MDC manages are state of the art,” McCloskey said, “and connecting people with nature is very important.”
He made natural resources an emphasis in his studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia. That helped him earn a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, and tourism. Then McCloskey went west to join Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He held various positions with duties in management, oversight, interpretation, and education.
Places like Burr Oak Woods with a nature center building and its surrounding forest, native grassland restorations, woodlands, creeks, and trails are havens for people who enjoy nature. But McCloskey also believes nature centers are great places for people who have not had previous outdoor experience to be introduced to nature and learn skills such as fishing or hunting morel mushrooms.
“Our naturalists can just step outside to do programs,” McCloskey said. “They can go into a prairie or glade or visit the pond. This is an amazing cross section of Missouri habitats and the correct management practices for them.”
McCloskey said he also welcomes the opportunity to strengthen connections between Burr Oak Woods and the community, from Blue Springs through the Kansas City metro area and in the region.
The nature center is beginning its spring and summer programs. Hiking trails are open. COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing and face masks are being observed.
For more information about Burr Oak Woods, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/burroakwoods. To learn more about programs at the nature center, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZXw.
by Jill Pritchard, Missouri Department of Conservation
Clean out those feeders and fill them with nectar – hummingbirds will soon arrive in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages the public to learn more about these tiny fliers during their spring migration.
“It’s time to prepare those feeders! Hummingbirds will start to make appearances in Missouri in mid-April,” MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick said. “Some have already been reported in Arkansas.”
Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend the winter in Mexico and Central American and begin their spring migration north as early as March. Kendrick explained hummingbirds can lose up to half their bodyweight during their journey.
“During migration, many fly non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. – and then they do it again in the fall,” she said. “That’s why so many use feeders in the spring – they’ve just arrived, and they’re hungry!”
The diet of a hummingbird consists of flower nectar, tree sap, and even small insects. Those who would like to put out feeders are urged to steer clear of adding red dye to sugar water.
“Adding red dye to hummingbird nectar is completely unnecessary – the birds are still attracted to the red of the feeder and the dye could be harmful to the birds,” Kendrick stressed.
“Hummingbirds drink the sugar water without the coloring. May as well save yourself a step and err on the side of caution.”
To make your own sugar water, dissolve one part sugar with four parts boiling water. Cool the mixture before filling the feeder and replace sugar water before it gets cloudy. In hot weather, feeders should be emptied and cleaned twice per week with hot water and a weak vinegar solution. In cooler weather, feeders can be cleaned once per week.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is Missouri’s smallest nesting bird and the only hummingbird that nests in the Eastern United States. Despite their petite size, they make a big impact in the ecosystem.
“Hummingbirds are important pollinators for many plants that require a long-billed pollinator and they also eat numerous insects,” Kendrick noted. “They bring a lot of joy to many people who feed and watch them, and draw people in to learn more about other birds and nature.”
In addition to putting out feeders, growing native plants is another great way to help hummingbirds and other migratory birds.
by Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation
Breeding season for coyotes begins in February, which makes them more active this time of year. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says it’s important to be vigilant of pets during this time in areas where coyotes are known to live.
Unlike many other kinds of wildlife, coyotes adapt particularly well around human development and coexist with people in many places. These areas can include municipal parks and other urban green space, golf courses, cemeteries, suburban wooded common areas, and even within subdivisions themselves.
As a result, it’s possible for encounters to occur between these wild canines and people’s pets. Coyotes have also been known on occasion to attack small dogs.
However, MDC Wildlife Damage Biologist Tom Meister said that coyotes may attack family pets not as a food source, but because instead they see them as territorial competition.
According to Meister, one of the secrets behind the coyote’s survival success is their diet.
“A true scavenger, the coyote will eat just about anything, including: foxes, groundhogs, mice, rabbits, squirrels, fruits, vegetables, birds, insects, carrion (dead animals) and common household garbage,” Meister said.
Coyotes typically breed in February and March. Females give birth to four or five pups about 60 days later.
“Because food requirements increase dramatically during pup rearing, April through May is when encounters between humans and urban coyotes are most common,” Meister said. At that time, coyotes are on the move more seeking food, and may act more aggressively toward any animal they see as potential competition, like family dogs.
So how can encounters between coyotes and people be minimized? These three things are key: food, scare tactics, and vigilance.
First, ensure that your yard or property has no food sources readily available to coyotes.
“If food is deliberately or inadvertently provided by people, the adult coyotes and their pups quickly learn not to fear humans and will develop a dependency on these easy food sources,” Meister said.
He urged dog and cat owners not to leave pet food outside, to securely cover all trash containers, and consider waiting to put trash containers out as close to pick up time as possible.
Think about bird feeders too. “While coyotes are usually not interested in bird food,” said Meister, “bird feeders attract rodents, especially squirrels, which in turn attract coyotes.”
It’s also a good idea use scare tactics to instill fear of humans into coyotes. If a coyote should approach or be seen in the yard, Meister suggests doing everything possible to make it feel unwelcome. This could include yelling or making other loud, threatening noises, throwing rocks, spraying garden houses, or blowing air horns. If its encounter with humans is unpleasant, a coyote will be less likely to come back.
Finally, vigilance regarding pets is extremely important. Meister recommends pet owners not leave their pets outside unattended, especially during the hours of dusk, nighttime and dawn. These are the periods coyotes are most active. Owners should be with their pets and have them in constant view during these times.
Installing a fence around yards may also help. Fences should be at least six feet high and dug into the ground six inches deep, so the agile and resourceful canines cannot jump or dig under them.
More information on dealing with nuisance coyotes can be found at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zaa, or in a free brochure obtainable by writing: Controlling Conflicts with Urban Coyotes in Missouri, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.