Publisher note: This is a second Kids to Parks Day post; the first was inadvertently eliminated during an AKontheGO WebGuy backup. We still love him, so it’s all okay, because mistakes and missteps in communication happen. Onward and upward!
Parks are childhood. Open fields for free play; slides and swings and climbing things; places to camp, hike, and explore. Parks are also spaces where kids, regardless of age, can learn valuable skills of decision-making, cooperation, and even take a few risks, whether they know it or not. Even in America’s smallest communities, one can almost always find a park of some kind, a testament to grownups who hopefully remembered what it was like to shoot down a slide, crawl sleepily from a tent, or climb a rocky hillside. They are places for infinite discovery.
But kids are missing out on opportunities to visit parks. The National Park Service reported their highest attendance year ever in 2014, but young people age 15 and under were underrepresented. Even in Alaska, where the state’s biggest city of Anchorage rubs shoulders with the third-largest state park in the nation, children aren’t flocking to local, state, and national parks as they were in previous decades, when neighborhoods, family road trips, and calmer scheduling prevailed. Technology plays a role, too. More kids are obese than ever before, yes, right here in Alaska, with 17% of kids growing up above their age-appropriate body weight.
Getting outdoors and getting active leads to a happier, healthier lifestyle for kids, so when Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move Outside” campaign in 2010, the National Park Trust was solidly behind this effort, creating another event to encourage not just activity, but outdoor activity. That’s how Kids to Parks Day was born.
Last year, 447,000 people from all parts of the country participated in Kids to Parks Day. In 2015, the Park Trust would like to raise that number to 500,000. You can help.
WHAT TO DO
Kids to Parks Day is more about simply going outdoors than formulating a fancy event with famous faces, popular music, and flashy prizes. With so many parks and open spaces available in the United State, the Park Trust would like people to go explore a place they haven’t been, or take someone new along for the ride. All you have to do is pledge to be there, anywhere, on or around May 16, 2015.
Registration is easy: Go to the Kids to Parks Day website, sign up your family, and you’re done! The numbers of pledges will be used to track where, and how many people decide to take part, and help the National Park Trust with further efforts to expand the event next year.
WHERE TO GO
Alaskans have myriad options for park outings, ranging from urban play spaces to remote backcountry cabins. Families are limited only by their imaginations. New to the state, or, perhaps, you’re looking for something a little different? Below is a listing of Alaska local, state, and national parks that might get your crew excited for Kids to Parks Day.
Fairbanks North Star Borough has a comprehensive listing of city parks HERE. Many connect via city trails, too, making for a nice walk or bike ride with the kids.
The Anchorage Park Foundation is a wonderful organization supporting local parks. Find their maps to all Anchorage parks, HERE. They even have a mobile app!
Alaska’s capital city of Juneau has a listing of parks in town and the surrounding area of Douglas. Great trails exist in this forested community, so don’t miss out.
Homer’s Karen Hornaday Park is another winner. Set on a hill overlooking town, it’s a kid’s wonderland of climbing things, water, and swings.
Alaska’s state parks are managed by the Department of Natural Resources. From hiking trails to campgrounds and public use cabins, the state parks option is always a good one, no matter your level of outdoor experience. Start HERE, and work your way around the DNR website. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Kids to Parks Day than honoring your own state’s parks.
“America’s Best Idea” just got better with Kids to Parks Day, which happens to coincide with the final week or two of school. Why not pack up the kids and visit a national park near you? For many Alaskans, that means Denali (AK Kid’s favorite place in the world), Sitka National Historical Park, or maybe Kenai Fjords. Alaska has 17 national parks, preserves, or national historic landmarks, and each one, like our state, is unique and special. Some day, we’re going to see them all.
Still not sure? There are scheduled events happening around the nation, and some in Alaska. Check out the Kids to Parks website for specific information about these, and other ways to enjoy your outdoor experience. Try a Park Adventure Booklet, with games, drawing space, and ideas for outdoor fun.
Speaking of games – why not try tag, or a photo scavenger hunt, or hosting an outdoor birthday party? All these things will get kids engaged and busy in their natural world, and they’ll be learning without even trying!
BONUS: AKontheGO has a little incentive for readers, too. We’ve partnered with the National Park Trust to give away a complete Kids to Parks Day prize pack. If you pledge to support Kids to Parks Day, AND comment below, you’ll be entered to win…
– Two stuffed “Buddy Bison” toys, the mascot of NPT.
– Two t-shirts
– A cool water bottle
– Two books published by National Geographic, describing the wonders of America’s national parks.
Starting… now, and running through Friday, May 8 (I’ve added a day after our little fiasco). Winners will be announced Saturday, May 9. IF you entered previously in the comment section, please do comment again.
*All that rule stuff: One entry per family (parents, kids, whoever lives in your house). Winner will be contacted via email and/or Facebook. In the event a winner does not respond within 48 hours, a drawing will occur to select a second winner.*