USA Today Covers Kids to Parks Day
“Kids to Parks Day: Find your local park on May 19”
Published in USA Today on May 15, 2018
By Susan B. Barnes
“You just kind of get to relax in a way and you don’t really have to worry about anything in the world. Now, I’m a kid so I normally don’t have to worry about that stuff. But for everyone else, it’s a way to get out and not worry about anything, and wonder, ‘how did nature do that?’”
Kids to Parks Day is a national initiative that began in 2011 and is organized by National Park Trust “to connect kids and families with their local, state, and national parks and public lands.”
“[We] realize the importance of getting children of all ages outside, not only for the health and wellness of our children, but also of our parks and public lands,” explained National Park Trust Executive Director Grace Lee. “Sometimes, the best ideas are simple ideas.”
In its first year, National Park Trust “was delighted” that about 18,000 people participated in Kids to Parks Day; this year, it’s estimated that more than 1 million people throughout the USA will take part.
“It’s a national invitation for everyone to come out and enjoy a local park, and keep enjoying and exploring,” said Lee of Kids to Parks Day, the tagline for which is Kids Need Parks and Parks Need Kids.
“More studies are showing just how important is it have that unstructured time outside,” said Kupper. “The sooner we can introduce young people to the outdoors, the better.”
Kupper adds that more than 400 National Parks are found throughout the USA., and that many have special events scheduled for Kids to Parks Days. And for those that don’t, their regularly-scheduled programs and Junior Ranger programs are hands-on and kid-friendly, so make a good fit for the day, too.
“National Parks are closer than people think; there’s at least one National Park in every state,” explains Kupper. “It doesn’t have to be a week-long trip – you can spend an hour, an afternoon, or a long weekend and have quality experiences.” (Find Your Park will help you locate the nearest one.)
An integral part of Kids to Parks Day is the Buddy Bison Student Ambassador program, created in 2015 “to promote the vision and mission of National Park Trust.” (Now) 13-year-old Tigran Nahabedian of Ojai, Calif., became the first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador in 2015, and in addition to Sarah (2016), is joined by 10-year-old Audrey Elliott of Nebo, N.C., (2017) and 11-year-old Bryan Wilson (2018) of Navajo Nation, Ariz. The ambassadors “embody the mission of NPT by promoting the importance of preserving our national parks and public lands, and engaging children of all ages with these iconic and special places.”
“We all have a connection to our National Parks,” added Tigran. “They are the crown jewels of our country, and without them our country would not be as great as it is right now. I’m really glad to be a part of it [Buddy Bison Student Ambassador program] – it allows me to connect to kids and learn about the National Parks.”
To date, more than 500 Kids to Parks Day events have been planned in local, regional, state and National Parks throughout the USA. for 2018, with more being added daily (find events near you). In addition, 385 mayors in towns and cities have proclaimed the third Saturday in May as Kids to Parks Day.
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Tigran will spend Kids to Parks Day volunteering with the Science Explorers Club at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, which includes talking about the area’s wildlife and history. In Vineland, N.J., Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah is organizing a Kids to Parks Day on May 20 that will include arts, science, a clean-up, raffles and more.
“Children need the outdoors – they need to breathe in nature and they need fresh air,” encourages Sarah. “They need to really realize that nature is an actual thing and not just on the TV, phone, iPad, or whatever.
“It’s out there – go explore it.”