In its mission to engage children with the outdoors, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program is marking a powerful milestone; kids and families have completed one million adventures through the program’s TRACK Trails.
This figure represents more than one million miles hiked, biked, or paddled, and more than 500,000 hours spent outside.
“I decided we were going to participate in the program to help motivate [my kids] to get outside and get moving,” says parent Janella Reynolds. “We attempted to do one trail a week, all summer long. They have enjoyed the trails and learning about nature. As a teacher, I try to have my children learning all summer long, and [the Kids in Parks program] helped achieve my goal.”
Using self-guided activities at participating locations, hikes on TRACK Trails become explorative outdoor experiences. These special adventures can be registered at KidsinParks.com, where young explorers can earn and collect prizes designed to encourage future outings.
To celebrate the achievement of one million adventures on TRACK Trails, Kids in Parks is launching a limited-time T-shirt fundraiser through Bonfire, offering kids and families a chance to wear their support for the program while they “TRACK the trails.” Proceeds from sales will help fund prizes for future Trail TRACKers. Three T-shirts designs will be available for purchase during June at KidsinParks.com/t-shirts.
Kids in Parks has installed more than 100 TRACK Trails in North Carolina with significant support from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. Other foundations, organizations, and land management agencies have also supported the program to help install more than 80 additional trails in 11 states and Washington, D.C. Today, Kids in Parks is a national network of trails where kids and families can hike, bike, canoe, play disc golf, and more, all while learning about the natural, cultural, and historical resources located at each site.
“As both a park manager and a parent, I appreciate that Kids in Parks is an effective way to connect families to parks without a lot of extra staff expense,” says Sean Higgins, Interpretation and Education Program Manager for North Carolina State Parks. “The network of TRACK Trails encourages kids to explore the resources of parks and helps them develop an appreciation for natural spaces. Ultimately, both families and parks benefit from the program.”
Engagement with the outdoors is critical and children have become increasingly disconnected with nature, spending less time outdoors and more time interacting with electronic media. To help encourage spending time outdoors as a means to live a healthier life, Kids in Parks also operates a complementary Parks Prescription initiative called TRACK Rx. To date, Kids in Parks has partnered with more than 600 healthcare providers.
“By working with professionals that parents and caregivers trust, we’re helping kids and families see parks and public lands as resources for their health,” says Jason Urroz, Kids in Parks Program Director. “Not only does this have a positive impact on children’s health, but it’s helping to cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards.”
To learn more about TRACK Trails near you, or to help the program reach a million more adventures, visit KidsinParks.com.