Explore Your Parks!
I’ve spent a lot of personal time exploring the incredible system of America’s State Parks. Without exception, the moment I can remember from each visit is when I meet a fellow explorer who is experiencing a park for the first time.
This past weekend, under bright blue skies and enjoying gentle fall breezes, I was honored to join in two “Let’s Move Outside” events in America’s State Parks that welcomed hundreds of first-time explorers. The events were hosted by The North Face and supported by the American Hiking Society and the National Park Trust, organizations that are all actively engaged in inspiring and equipping the entire country for outdoor exploration.
At Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland, young people and their parents from the Knowledge is Power Program in DC (KIPP DC), Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, and the Washington Latin Public Charter School gathered for a morning hike.
Before the hike, nearly 75% of the students admitted they had never been on a hike before. After the hike, and a day spent with mentors and volunteers from the park, 100% enthusiastically said that they would urge their families to come back again, a goal made easier by the water bottles, trail maps and expert advice provided by our partners through the “Explore Your Parks” partnership.
At Virginia’s Mason Neck State Park, a peninsula bordered by the Belmont and Pohick Bays, families from across the state came out to hike the Bay View Trail. As we were getting ready to head out, a young father was overheard telling his daughter that he was looking forward to getting some good exercise on their hike, to which she replied, “Dad, it’s not exercise, it’s EXPLORING. Plus, the ranger said we might see an eagle.”
The health and future of our parks is deeply linked to the health and future of our nation…and both rely greatly on parks, corporate leaders, not-for-profits, schools and families working together. The public-private partnerships that brought these first-time explorers out to our parks for such a meaningful experience are vital—not only in helping citizens experience the outdoors, but also for giving them new motivation and changing the way they view physical activity.
Each of us has a stake in the health of our communities and in our parks and public lands. Let’s combine our resources, leverage our unique expertise, work together and get America moving, hiking, biking, running, skiing, climbing, walking, swimming, jumping, playing.
Let's get outside and start exploring our parks!