Grandparents’ Day brought community members to Scattering Fork Outdoor Center Sunday for family fun, a scavenger hunt and other outdoor activities.
“I came to spend time with my granddaughter,” Kaye Totten said. “I see her everyday, but this is really special for us. We live just up the road here, and it’s our first time here.”
Scattering Fork Outdoor Center is comprised of 80 acres of forest, farmland and the Scattering Fork creek. Located off Audrain Road 815, the scavenger hunt took community members on a mile-long hike in search of various leaves to check off their list.
The main attraction of the hunt were paw paw fruit trees. Paw paws are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America. They populate the southeast, and are common in traditional southern cooking.
The group observed several wild paw paw trees on the scavenger hunt, and the kids got to pick their own fruit to bring home.
“I wanted to take my youngest grandkids out here,” Connie Lawson said. “They love it here, and I am so interested in this place. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Mexico Gardening Club and Master Gardeners clubs have planted on the center’s grounds elderberries, wild plums, raspberries, blueberries, grapes and a few paw paw trees, though paw paws grow naturally in the Mexico area.
Exotic fruits and plants were all observed on the hunt, which took place on the first trail loop of the center. Sue Ellen Worstell, daughter of the owner of Scattering Fork Outdoor Center, lead the group of grandparents and their grandchildren into the woods pointing out various nut and fruit trees, mushrooms and animal tracks.
“Scattering Fork has always been always been educational,” Sue Ellen Worstell said. “It’s meant to bring people into nature. We say we only want you to leave footprints and bring out memories. Every season, you can learn something different. Everytime I come out here I learn something new. I’ve been here since 2004, and I’ve been on the trail probably once or twice a week. Still, it’s just like seasons, every season is different and everytime you come out here you learn something new.”
The kids were overjoyed to find red mushrooms, walnuts and animal bones as well as check different leaves off their scavenger list. Laura Worstell, owner of Scattering Fork Outdoor Center, said discoveries like this are for what the center was built.
“It’s been here for a long, long time,” Laura Worstell said. “It’s for people to love being out in the woods. The land is good for your health, and you really don’t have to worry about a lot of stuff if you’re sensible.”
Paw paw fruit cookies and butter were waiting back at the center’s small building at the mouth of the trail.
The center was purchased in 1992 by Laura Worstell and her husband Jim. Shortly after, the land was turned into a non-profit team challenge course. The idea for a team challenge course came from Wostell’s eldest daughter, Mary Jane. Mary Jane worked on team challenge courses in Georgia after graduating from MU, and wanted to do something special with the land.
A team challenge course is a plot of land with various challenging activities. Most challenge courses require a team of up to twelve participants working together to complete the activities on the course.
“Our farm is just across the creek,” Worsham said. “Jim said he always wanted his land to go a mile across, so we just bought it. The whole thing is a challenge course, and what that does is it teaches people doing the activities to trust each other and to honor each other. Sometimes it takes them a long time to figure out how to get it done.”
Team challenge course centers invite work groups, teams and other participants to attempt the course. The activities promote bonding and team work and include things like rope walks, rock walls, ziplines and wall climbs. Scattering Fork Outdoor Center features several activity stations that, as of this year, will no longer be in use.
“We quit the challenge courses this year because of the insurance that goes along with challenge courses like this,” Worsham said. “It got to the place where we would be having to spend a lot of money on insurance, and we’d be spending all of our time making money for the insurance. That’s silly. It’s not what this place is for. This place is for people to love being out on the land, to be out in nature.”
Now, the Scattering Fork Outdoor Center will host one event per month. Laura Worstell wants to continue keeping the land non-profit. Sue Ellen Worstell said the land holds great importance to the community, and sees the center as its own conservation site.
“I feel like we are an extension of the Missouri Conservation, I would say, because we are conserving this area,” Sue Ellen Worstell said. “We don’t have paintball; we don’t let horses be out here; we don’t let four wheelers out here, because they all tear things up. As the population is getting bigger and bigger, these places are [more] rare. Everything changes in town, but nature changes faster.”
Next month, the Scattering Fork Center will be hosting National Nut Day. Come to Scattering Fork Outdoor Center on Oct. 21 to see wild nuts trees, and experience 80 acres of Missouri’s untouched nature.