Tag Archives: National Park Service Centennial

The Power of Partnerships: OAK Helps National Park Trust’s Kids to Parks Day Soar

guest blog by Grace Lee, Executive Director of National Park Trust

Last year during the centennial of the National Park Service, our national parks alone enjoyed more than 330 million park visitors. Great news – right? Unfortunately, most of their visitors are white and aging. Young people are our next generation of park stewards and outdoor enthusiasts, thus it’s critical for the future of our parks and public lands to engage and cultivate this important segment of society.

To address this problem, National Park Trust created Kids to Parks Day in 2011 to engage youth from diverse communities with the great outdoors. This country-wide park “holiday” is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May, the weekend before Memorial Day.

In our first year, we were thrilled to engage 18,000 participants. Little do we know that in just 7 short years, our participation would soar to more than 1 million on May 20th, 2017!

What makes Kids to Parks Day hum? It’s all about the power of partnerships. Thanks to our many national collaborators and partners including the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), we’ve leveraged our combined “reach”, to engage 3.5 million youth over the years and across the country – promoting 1) education, 2) healthy outdoor recreation, and 3) environmental stewardship.

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Kids to Parks Day National School Contest winner Finger Lake Elementary at West Butte Trail State Park (Palmer, AK). Photo credit: Finger Lake Elementary.

One notable example, this year OAK member PBS Kids’ Nature Cat heard about National Park Trust during an OAK quarterly membership call. Nature Cat contacted National Park Trust and together we teamed-up (along with National Park Trust’s mascot Buddy Bison) for three signature Kids to Parks Day events at Ft. McHenry (Baltimore, MD), Constitution Gardens (Washington, D.C.) and Channel Islands (Ventura, CA). These events were three of the more than 1,700 family-friendly park programs that were available across the country on May 20th and posted on our site – many of the events were either hosted, organized, and/or promoted by OAK members!

However, Kids to Parks Day (KTP) is not just about one day of outdoor recreation – it promotes year-round use of parks by kids and their families. KTP Day gives life to National Park Trust mascot, Buddy Bison’s message: “Explore outdoors, the parks are yours!”

We look forward to working with OAK next year to get even more kids outdoors on Kids to Parks Day 2018 –May 19th!

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Kids to Parks Day celebration at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Baltimore, MD). Photo credit: Chris Rief, National Park Trust.
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Kids to Parks Day celebration at Constitution Gardens with Buddy Bison and Nature Cat.        Photo credit: Chris Rief, National Park Trust.

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RELEASE: NYC 4th graders get free passes to visit public lands and waters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Contact:
Virginia Cramer, 804-519-8449, Virginia.Cramer@sierraclub.org
Jackie Ostfeld, 202-821-8877, Jackie.Ostfeld@sierraclub.org

NYC 4th graders get free passes to visit public lands and waters OAK helps launch the Every Kid in a Park initiative in Harlem

Today, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and other groups helped to launch the Obama Administration’s Every Kid in a Park NYC initiative with an event in Harlem. Two hundred fourth-grade students were among those joining the event at Hamilton Grange National Memorial. The students received free passes to America’s public lands and waters through the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which seeks to connect young people with the great outdoors by granting free entry to national parks for all fourth-graders and their families.

In response, participating members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“The North Face is pleased to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. At The North Face, we believe that exposure to the outdoors in a child’s life has many benefits, including being great for physical health, instilling a sense of adventure and developing a respect for the environment that remains in adulthood,” said Todd Spaletto, President of The North Face. “We are proud to support President Obama in his effort to combat the decline of young people’s connection to the outdoors by introducing all young people to the wonders of exploration. Our hope is that by encouraging kids to explore early, they will go on to become conservation-minded, long-term stewards who will pass these beliefs on to the next generation.”

“The Sierra Club is proud to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. As a child I spent countless hours in the woods and streams near my house and was lucky enough to hike, camp, and canoe with my family and classmates. America’s public lands belong to all of us, yet today too many kids are missing out on the joys of spending time outside. All children should have a chance to experience the wonders of nature no matter where they live. As today’s event demonstrates it’s possible to connect with the outdoors even in urban centers,” said Sierra Club Board Member and New York resident Loren Blackford, who attended the event. “As we celebrate the centennial of our National Parks, the Sierra Club is committed to engaging the next generation and connecting them with the next century of conservation.”

“From Harlem to Yellowstone, Wilderness Inquiry wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid in a Park initiative,” said Wilderness Inquiry Executive Director Greg Lais. “It’s amazing to see how excited these kids are when they first lay eyes on a Voyageur canoe. New York City is a priority for Wilderness Inquiry and we look forward to getting more kids from the Big Apple out on the river over the years.”

“Discover Outdoors is proud to be a supporter of Every Kid in a Park,” said Discover Outdoors Founder and Executive Director, Kirk Reynolds. “To lead tomorrow, New York City students need to be connected to nature today, where science is learned experientially, and character is shaped through team-work and adventure.”

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to participate in today’s NYC launch and to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative for fourth graders across America,” said OAK Co-Founder and Chair, Jackie Ostfeld. “Too few children have opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural world. OAK members are answering President Obama’s call to action to connect America’s 4th graders with our public lands because we believe that time spent outdoors leads to healthier kids and a healthier planet.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)
OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than eighty businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information:www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

President Obama to Get Every Kid in a Park

guest blog by Sierra Club Nearby Nature Director and OAK Chair, Jackie Ostfeldoriginally featured in the Huffington Post

A walk in the woods will change a child’s life. That is, if she ever makes it to the trailhead. This week, President Obama unveiled the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative to connect children and their families with the great outdoors, ensuring millions of kids, regardless of where they live, will have an opportunity to take that first step in nature. The initiative will provide free entrance to our nation’s treasured public lands for every fourth grader in America — oh, and they can take their families, too.

This initiative matters, because not every kid has a forest in her backyard. In fact, most don’t. More than 80 percent of America now lives in urban areas, and this number grows every year. Opportunities to enjoy and explore nearby nature are limited for many children. Fewer than half of all kids in the United States can safely walk to a park from their home, and school testing priorities and funding cuts are reducing opportunities for physical education, recess, and field trips. Fears about playing outdoors affect how children spend their free time. And today’s youth are able to keep themselves contented indoors with television, video games, and computers; they’re clocking about fifty-three hours of screen time each week. The barriersto spending time in nature are high, and they’re even higher for low-income communities.

President Obama understands that not all kids have the same opportunities to connect with nature. Whether or not a child will climb a tree, run through a forest, roll down a hill, or splash in a creek depends a lot on where she grows up and the values and interests of her parents, teachers, and the other adult figures in her life. Last October, President Obama knocked down one roadblock to getting outside by increasing close-to-home access to the outdoors, or nearby nature, for nearly 15 million people living in Los Angeles County. When the president established the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument, he said “too many children in L.A. County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free and breathe fresh air, experience nature, and learn about their own environment.” With the San Gabriel Mountains designation, President Obama protected 346,177 acres, providing improved outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of kids and families.

President Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” is the latest in a series of barrier-busting moves he’s made to increase access to nature for all. The initiative will provide fourth graders across the nation an opportunity to visit America’s great outdoors free of charge. To support “Every Kid in a Park,” the National Park Foundation will expand its Ticket to Ride program to award transportation grants to schools in need. The initiative builds on U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s youth initiative to get children and youth playing, learning, serving, and working outdoors. And it will kick off at the beginning of the 2015 school year, just in time to start celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. As we gear up for the centennial in 2016, “Every Kid in a Park” challenges us to think about the next 100 years. What will the future of our outdoor legacy look like if we don’t make sure all kids have a chance to experience it?

The Sierra Club shares the president’s vision. Whether it’s a National Park or a neighborhood park, we’ll do our part to ensure that the next generation has opportunities to experience nature. The Sierra Club’s Nearby Nature initiative supports community-driven conservation efforts, like parks, gardens, and trails, to help ensure that close-to-home access to the outdoors becomes a reality for kids and families across the socioeconomic spectrum. Our Inspiring Connections Outdoors program has been training and supporting volunteer mentors who empower kids to get outdoors for over 40 years and now reaches 15,000 youth each year with nature-based outings in our local and national parks and everything in between. And the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, a diverse coalition of over 75 businesses and nonprofits cofounded by the Sierra Club,supports and will continue to advocate for efforts like the president’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that provide quality opportunities for our children to get outdoors.

photo: Kids from Sierra Club’s Washington, D.C. Inspiring Connections Outdoors on the Billy Goat Trail, Great Falls National Park