Archery is back by popular demand
Public interest in the centuries-old sport continues to grow, and in response, regional parks across the seven-county area have begun offering archery programs to accommodate the demand.
“They’ve always had this curiosity with archery,” Nathan Tiagland said of his four children. “It feels a little medieval, like Robin Hood.”
Association with fictional characters may be inspiration for a large share of those signing up. Media hype for recent movies like The Hunger Games and Brave have sparked a new-found interest in archery for many youth.
“I want to be just like Katniss,” said 8-year-old Owen Cuccia, at Family Archery Night in Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, Chanhassen. “Archery is awesome and I love it. I wish I could do it again next summer.”
Dan Erickson, the liaison between Anoka County Parks and the Rapids Archery Club, said that he thinks recent growth in archery participation can be attributed to the introduction of archery in school physical education classes, through the implementation of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) in the past decade. He said since then, more kids seem to be signing up for Rapids Archery Club’s Junior Olympic Archery Development program.
The rewards of hitting the bull’s-eye
Carver County has noticed increased public interest since it invested in equipment about 3 years ago, too.
“It’s by far our most active outdoor recreational program,” said Sam Pertz, Carver County Parks Department.
The equipment is easily transportable, and Carver County parks organizes events across the county. This has allowed them to partner up with cities to host events, such as a family archery night at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park on July 11.
“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” said Lily Cuccia, of Chanhassen. “You wobble a bit and it’s hard to get your arm straight to aim.”
But overcoming those challenges to improve is the reward many archers crave.
“It just feels good to get an arrow on the target,” said Alex Teigland, 10, also of Chanhassen.
For Erickson, teaching is just as rewarding as practicing. He said his fondest memory with archery was at one of the Pheasant Youth Days years ago on a particularly cold, rainy day. As he helped some of the kids, he noticed a father and daughter pointing at him and talking. Later on his lunch break, the father approached him, and said that his daughter understood Erickson best, and liked the way he taught. For the remainder of the day, Erickson made sure he was the one to instruct the girl.
“Each time she got a little better,” he said. “I went home with a smile on my face as big as if I’d won a million dollars. That was an experience that made my whole archery career.”
A good sport for families
Archery is a skill that lasts a lifetime. Erickson said there are members from ages 8-80 at Rapids Archery Club.
“This is about slowing down and concentrating,” said John Meccia, Excelsior, at the Lake Minnewashta Family Archery Night. “Archery is much different that the contact sports.”
Being an individual non-contact sport, archery is less demanding on the body, and results in fewer injuries. The lack of limitations is what allows Carver County to host family-oriented classes; everyone can participate.
“I think having a family night is a brilliant idea. It solidifies the strength of the family in this community,” said Carolyn Martin, who attended the activity with her husband and two sons.
Participants in the introductory classes are able to learn the basic technique, eye coordination, and mechanics of using a bow. Shooting a bulls-eye may be out-of-reach for the beginners, but having fun and learning the fundamentals is the goal, said Carver County Parks Programmer Ben Graham.
"We just want people to learn how to shoot safely,” Graham said.
Moving forward, Pertz hopes to expand the opportunities for archers in Carver County.
“My vision is to take it to the next step,” Pertz said, “and offer some more beginner hunting classes for people that are looking to see what it would be like to go out in a real-life hunting situation.”
Archery is just one of dozens of activities offered at regional parks. The regional parks system includes 51 parks and park reserves, and 7 special recreation features totaling more than 54,600 acres open for public use. In addition, the system has 38 regional trails with 308 miles currently open to the public. The regional parks are operated by 10 parks agencies, with planning and funding support from the Metropolitan Council.
Regional parks with archery facilities
Rapids Archery Club (Anoka County) – 1255 133rd Avenue NW, Andover; (763) 862-8163
Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve (Dakota County) – 13690 Pine Bend Trail, Rosemount; (952)-891-7000. Open 8 a.m. to sunset Feb. 24 – Nov. 30. $5 Daily pass; $30 season pass.
Elm Creek Park Reserve – 12400 James Deane Parkway, Maple Grove; (763) 694-7894. Open year-round.
Carver Park Reserve – 7025 Victoria Drive, Victoria; (763) 694-7650; Open April 15 – Nov. 15.
Lake Elmo Park Reserve (Washington County) – 1515 Keats Ave. N., Lake Elmo; (651) 430-8370
Posted In: Parks