Do you remember staying out until dark climbing trees, riding bikes, building forts, splashing through streams? Many of us do, but it is not generally true for today’s youth. Many grow up without spending large amounts of time exploring the outdoors and developing ties to the environment.
We hope to change that with the help of the White House’s new Every Kid in a Park program. The initiative provides every fourth-grade student in America, along with his or her family, the opportunity to visit more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters — for FREE!
The website provides information about the program and how to obtain the pass. It also suggests destinations and activities so kids can experience first-hand our country’s most inspiring historical sites and natural spaces.
This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is a time to not just reflect on the past 100 years, but also to look ahead to the future. We hope this pass will help create a new generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.
We want fourth graders to visit places, near or far, and connect with the vast natural resources our country has to offer. Whether it is in their own backyard or across the country, we want young people to develop lasting connections to land, water and wildlife and be aware of opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors.
The Every Kid in a Park program is made possible by collaboration across a wide variety of government departments and agencies. Participating entities include the Department of the Interior (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Education, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Many state park systems have also joined the Every Kid in a Park program and are granting free access to fourth graders and their families. In addition, nonprofits, corporations and other partners, such as the National Park Foundation, REI, the Outdoor Industry Association/Outdoor Foundation, the Conservation Fund, SOS Outreach, Amtrak and Outdoors Alliance for Kids are providing support for the program to help as many people as possible have meaningful outdoor experiences.
On September 1, 2016, the next class of fourth grade students will become eligible for their Every Kid in a Park passes. As the program continues to evolve and expand each year, we hope that all kids will look forward to the time when they can get their own Every Kid pass, and host their families on expeditions to discover nature’s wonders.
Jonathan B. Jarvis is the 18th Director of the National Park Service.