Islanders Leap for Green during Earth Day event

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If one thing was clear at the second annual Leap for Green Earth Day celebration, it was this: the children are listening.

The community event, highly publicized by the city of Mercer Island, aims to raise public awareness about numerous environmental issues. Local vendors, nonprofits and various earth-friendly organizations collaborated to create a festival of food, games, music, learning and more. And although attended by all ages, it was the children who breathed life into the April 18 event.

Toddlers shrieked with glee as Lumpy the tortoise chomped away at clovers. Older children waited in line to ride one of several electrically powered bicycles. Teenagers savored home-churned Whidbey Island ice cream while their younger siblings dug through a bin of earth worms. While parents sifted through Audubon Society pamphlets, it was their children whose eyes bulged at the illustrated diagrams of Washington’s native birds.

“I think the chickens were the coolest,” said fourth-grader Maya Rudel. “But I also learned a lot about how to save energy.”

And this, according to City Communications Coordinator Joy Johnston, is exactly what the city had hoped for.

“The main goal is for children to experience nature first-hand and get to actually play with the bikes and go on the nature walks,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired later in life, too.”

This year’s Leap for Green was more locally focused than in 2008, Johnston said. A number of Mercer Island organizations, such as the Mercer Island Thrift Store, Visual Arts League and Committee to Save the Earth, had a prominent presence at the event.

The weather also played in the city’s favor. The sun glowed for most of the afternoon, with enjoyable warm temperatures all day. Thus, the event’s outdoor activities were well attended.

Mercer Island Parks and Recreation volunteers hosted three Leap for Green nature walks throughout the day: an “early bird” bird-watch in Luther Burbank Park, a bug-watch on the shores of Lake Washington and an exclusive tour through Luther Burbank’s north wetlands, which are usually closed to the public.

Overall, an estimated 1,000 people attended this year’s Leap for Green, Johnston said, which was about the same as last year.

“We were really happy with the turnout — even though it was Little League opening day, so some families couldn’t make it,” she said.

Leap for Green is a free event, although visitors were asked to donate non-perishable food items for the Mercer Island Food Pantry. Johnston said more than 50 pounds of food was collected.

Leap for Green is sponsored by the city of Mercer Island, IslandVision and the Mercer Island Community Fund.

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