Joint initiative touts US parks to youth, families

PHOENIX, AZ: National park officials and recreation industry executives have launched a new event and technological initiative to get more kids and their families to attend parks around the country.

PHOENIX, AZ: National park officials and recreation industry executives have launched a new event and technological initiative to get more kids and their families to attend parks around the country.

Announced at an “Outdoor Recreational Village” set up near the site of Super Bowl XLII, the effort includes more than 100 planned outdoor events around the country on June 14 that will be hosted at state and federally owned public parks, and feature a range of activities. The events will be sponsored by mountain biking and other groups, as well as outdoors shops like BassPro.

Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), which is helping organize the events, said reversing declining US park attendance by enticing a younger generation of visitors requires a collaborative effort between public officials and the private sector.

“What we're finding is kids need a blend of the new and the old to lure them into the outdoors, so we're looking at innovative ways to use those range of activities and…social networking -- sites like MySpace and FaceBook and YouTube -- to try to get on the radar screen of kids,” Crandall said.

One such activity helping to lure a younger, tech-loving generation to parks is called geocaching, in which people use hand-held GPS receivers to participate in treasure-hunt type games.

To build interest in visiting parks, the initiative will include sponsoring visits by kids who could take photos of themselves at waterfalls or other natural locations, and write about their trips on social networking sites.

Promotion for National Get Outdoors Day, as the upcoming events are billed, will also include PSAs and personal appearances by as-yet unnamed Hollywood and sports celebrities, Crandall said.

Ruder Finn is assisting the ARC with national media outreach.

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