By Anna Guido
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Get youths hooked on fishing, not on drugs. That's the goal of a national program West Chester Township Police are participating in for the fifth year.
"Fishing is a good alternative to drug and alcohol use and it's something you can do by yourself and with others," said Lt. Norman Pearson, local program coordinator and instructor.
Monday kicked off the first of three summer "Hooked on Fishing" sessions at Dimmick Lake. Ten children showed.
"It's not exactly what we expected, but I think the weather had something to do with it," Pearson said.
Two more "Hooked on Fishing" sessions will be held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. July 8 and Aug. 12, for children and teens ages 5 to 16.
There is no charge and all participants get a free tackle box.
"We teach kids the basics about fishing, talk to them about the dangers and risks of drug and alcohol use, then take them fishing to an area pond," Pearson said.
But that's not all the police department hopes to accomplish through its involvement in the program.
"We want to have more contact with the kids - more positive contact," Pearson said.
The program was started in 1992 by the Future Fishing Foundation. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) joined the campaign in 1993 and now has one of the largest "Hooked on Fishing" programs nationally.
"It's a good format for us to further the fishing heritage," said Dave Wilson, a spokesman with ODNR's Wildlife Division.
"Hooked on Fishing" is federally funded with excise tax from fishing equipment and tackle sales. In Ohio, more than 100 organizations - including the Cincinnati Parks and Recreation Commission - participate in the program, which reaches about 20,000 children and teens annually. Sponsors are given the flexibility to tailor the program to their community needs.
In West Chester, for example, "Hooked on Fishing" was expanded this year into after-school program lineups at Adena and Shawnee elementaries in the Lakota Local School District.
A yearlong "Hooked on Fishing" club also is in the works for students in the Lakota district.
Does the program work? Preliminary studies have not been able to prove that it's an effective anti-drug program for youth.
However, "participants and sponsoring agencies would probably disagree," Wilson said.
To register, call the West Chester Township Parks and Recreation Department at 759-7312.
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