by Erin Kirkland
Listen up: The 2017 Kids to Parks Day calendar is ticking ever closer to May 20, and the National Park Trust needs you. Last year, 731,000 kids participated in a day of celebration for our country’s national parks and public lands, and the Park Trust is hoping to boost those numbers to make sure even more young people are experiencing the outdoors.
Kids to Parks Day is always a bit different in Alaska. Whereas most other places in the United States are picnicking on green fields and walking snow-free trails, here in the 49th state families are only just getting around to tracking down the camping gear and hiking boots while considering where to begin another short summer of outdoor adventuring. And this is where you come in.
AK Kids are great ambassadors of both Alaska and the wilderness in which they live, go to school, and play, so it seemed only right to turn some of the responsibility for promoting Kids to Parks Day 2017 over to you.
Why? I’m watching my own son grow into a compassionate, sensitive young man who shows great concern for the future of Alaska’s public lands. He also shows great promise at convincing other kids to get out and explore the Last Frontier simply by his actions. As part of the AKontheGO team, he hikes, rides, floats and flies his way around Alaska as an unspoken message for all tweens and teens: Show Up. Be an active part of your public lands, and especially the 24 units representing Alaska’s national parks, preserves, and historical sites.
How? It doesn’t take much for a kid to make a difference on Kids to Parks Day (or any day, for that matter), it just requires a commitment to care. Aren’t sure where to start? Visit the Kids to Parks Day website and see how other states are recognizing the event. Don’t think you have the right gear to hit the trails? Good news; you don’t need much, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Layers, waterproof outer-wear, and good shoes. Northside is a sponsor for Kids to Parks Day 2017 and they’ve got boots and shoes to fit your family’s budget; even for kids like mine who’s feet seem to grow daily. (AKontheGO will be giving away a pair of Northside shoes as we draw closer to KtP Day, so keep a close eye on the website for details.)
Where? Alaskans are fortunate to have a slew of public lands at our doorsteps. From state parks to the remote and rugged national park units in the Arctic and down along the Inside Passage, anyone in Alaska can access a slice of the outdoors. It’s easy to find these places too if you visit an Alaska Public Lands Information Center (find the locations of all four, HERE). Grab a map, purchase a parking pass, or browse the myriad options for campground or cabin stays, and get to know the men and women who make sure our public lands stay protected places.
When? How about now? Many trails around Alaska are melting off a winter of snow, and in Southeast Alaska some are greening up. Heck, even if there is snow, snap on the skis or snowshoes and take a spin around for one last frosty adventure. Nobody said Kids to Parks Day had to be all about spring and summer. If you prefer to wait until the official KtP Day event kicks off, go ahead and register your family HERE. You might win some sweet gear that will make your Alaska outdoor experiences even cooler.
- Create a photo scavenger hunt for your friends (think items and shapes found in nature, then have a prize for whoever finds the most).
- Host a neighborhood gathering at your local park for the little kids and their parents/caregivers. A great way to rachet up that school community service requirement, too. Just saying.
- Lead a hike. Pick a trail that most people will be able to travel, then head out. Or, grab your buddies and make a day of it. Don’t forget your 10 Essentials though, and make sure an adult knows where you are and when you plan to return.
- Interview a public lands official. Whether US Forest Service, US Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, or US Fish and Wildlife Federation, you’ll undoubtedly learn a lot about our public lands. Why did he or she choose a particular job? What sort of schooling or training is required? What does a typical day look like?
Here’s a parting thought: You are the future of Alaska’s public lands. Your actions now will determine what sort of steward you will become as an adult. You might even go on to lead an agency yourself. Now wouldn’t that be amazing?
Other stories about Kids to Parks Day 2017
*This post was created under agreement with the National Park Trust in partnership for Kids to Parks Day 2017.*