A normal hike in the woods transformed into an exciting community challenge in Westport thanks to the creativity and dedication of a physical education teacher at Westport Elementary School.

Recently, it hit a snag.

Terry Pacheco and Westport Land Conservation Trust devised an engaging plan for Pacheco's students and their families. The mission: Explore all 12 properties managed by the trust across Westport. To add an element of adventure, Pacheco and her colleagues hid markers throughout these sites for the kids to find. The reward for completing this quest? A stylish hiking boot pin, a selfie on Pacheco’s Instagram, a special mention in a video, and, of course, bragging rights.

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Beyond encouraging physical activity, the challenge aims to strengthen the connection between Westport Elementary’s students and the world around them.

Families embraced the challenge, venturing into the woods, sharing the experience and making memories.

It was the picture-perfect example of community engagement...until an issue surfaced.

Courtesy Amy Teixeira
Courtesy Amy Teixeira

Recently, Pacheco and her supporters encountered an unfortunate setback. Some of the signs, integral to the hiking challenge, have been repeatedly vandalized. The acts of smashing and ripping down signs undermine the initiative’s spirit and mean spending more money on replacements.

This recent and disturbing development has led to a call for community awareness and involvement. There's an appeal to parents to be vigilant about their children's activities, especially in these natural areas. The damage done isn't just to the signs; it's a blow to the community spirit.

Despite these setbacks, the spirit of the Westport Hiking Challenge lives on.

As Pacheco and her crew continue replacing the damaged signs, there's hope that with increased awareness and community support, this cause can flourish, reminding us all of the joys of exploring nature and the importance of respecting our shared spaces.

Matthew Barth contributed to this report.

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