“I decided we were going to participate in the program to help motivate [my kids] to get outside and get moving,” said 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 www.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 in partnership with 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-shirt 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.
TRACK Trail participants help cut the ribbon on a trail at Mount Mitchell. Donated photo TRACK Trail participants help cut the ribbon on a trail at Mount Mitchell. Donated photo
“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,” said 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, but 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,” said 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.”
Find out more about Kids in Parks and TRACK Trails at www.kidsinparks.com. The site includes easy information about how to sign up as well as an interactive map showing all 175 trails in the network.