TRACK trails get kids outdoors – and earning prizes
Get kids outside, connect with nature and let them earn prizes in the process – that’s the concept behind Kids in Parks and TRACK Trails, a movement born in Western North Carolina, but now in 12 states and coming to five locations in the Upstate.
Adam Roades, Associate Director of Kids in Parks, said the program, which also promotes kids’ connection to the outdoors through the TRACK-tivity published each month in Upstate Parent, looks to the future of public lands by helping kids fall in love with them now.
“Kids in Parks started as a program for the Blue Ridge Parkway,” he said. “There had been a study done around 2007, taking a wide survey of people who were visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is the most visited national park service unit, which some people would be surprised by. It gets more visitors than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined. But the sort of troubling statistic that came from that survey was that a very small percentage – I think 7 - 11 percent – of people were bringing kids on their trips. Who is going to care about these wonderful national treasures that we have if we don’t connect with youth now?”
The efforts of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina resulted in TRACK Trails, piloted in 2009 at the parkway’s visitors center in Asheville. The program, available online at https://www.kidsinparks.com, lets families search for trail locations, download free brochures with activities to complete along the trail and then track them online to earn prizes.
The program now includes more than 200 trails and is expanding. In South Carolina, it currently includes a trail at Congaree National Park near Columbia and Vereen Memorial Gardens in Horry County.
Roades said Kids in Parks was recently awarded a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Foundation that will create 10 new TRACK Trails in the state, five in the Midlands and five in the Upstate. Already, plans are slated for Cowpens National Battlefield, Table Rock State Park and Musgrove Mill Historic Site, with two additional sites coming to Greenville and Spartanburg Counties.
Use the free monthly TRACK-tivity to engage in your backyard or a nearby park and then plan adventures for a wealth of family memories.