Invite Your Members of Congress to Kids to Parks Day

May 8, 2018, Department, by Jayni Rasmussen

2018 May Advocacy KidstoParksDay 410

On April 16, the United States Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, with unanimous consent, that designates May 19, 2018, as “National Kids to Parks Day.” This bipartisan resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (OR), Rob Portman (OH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Martin Heinrich (NM), Mazie K. Hirono (HI) and Cory Booker (NJ). In addition, more than 354 mayors and town councils, representing all 50 states, have signed proclamations in support of Kids to Parks Day (see full list at www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/mayoral-proclamations). Kids to Parks Day is an annual initiative organized by the National Park Trust (NPT) to connect kids of all ages to parks. Naturally, NRPA is all-in on this great idea!

With children increasingly spending more time indoors and in front of screens, this day is an essential part of the movement to connect youth to nature. NRPA is proud to partner with the National Park Trust on Kids to Parks Day for the second year in a row, with the aim of connecting not only youth to parks, but also members of Congress.

This partnership is based on NRPA’s Park Champion initiative, which empowers NRPA members and community advocates to invite their members of Congress to ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings, program kickoffs and special events, like Kids to Parks Day. Together with NPT, NRPA developed tools and resources, including a special step-by-step guide, for inviting local, state and federal elected officials to a Kids to Parks Day event. This is a perfect opportunity to show elected officials, especially members of Congress, firsthand how important it is to invest in parks and recreation — and to have an amazing time at one of thousands of Kids to Parks Day events!

Public funding for parks is essential to creating and maintaining quality open spaces at all levels of government. However, often there’s a strong disconnect between federal funding and the parks that are made possible by it. Federal funding not only directly funds park projects, but also leverages local, state and private funding to build and maintain our nation’s open spaces. Without federal funding for parks, families across America would be without access to parks. That’s why it’s so important to include members of Congress on elected-official invitation lists for events like Kids to Parks Day. By including them, agencies can create a powerful, memorable experience that demonstrates exactly how important federal funding is to connecting kids to nature.

In the current political climate where every cause seems to be vying for attention and funding, it’s important to remember how essential it is to give kids the chance to participate in free play in nature. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, each day, kids ages 8–18 spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen. Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun – and that doesn’t include the time spent on a computer during the school day or at home for homework. Studies show that kids who do get ample outdoor time are healthier, smarter, more focused and care more about the environment. Kids to Parks Day is so critical, because it gives kids an opportunity to discover (or rediscover) the joy of spending a day outside in a park.

Beyond the benefits of connecting children to nature, the return on investment for public funding for parks is staggering. The recently released Economic Impact of Parks study, conducted by George Mason University, found that local parks generate more than $154 billion in U.S. economic activity and support more than 1.1 million jobs every year!

You can help ensure that future generations have access to parks by hosting a Kids to Parks Day event and turning it into a Park Champion event. Here are some easy steps:

STEP ONE: Plan your event and then go online to access the Kids to Parks Day Advocacy Toolkit. There, you can also register your kid-friendly park event.

STEP TWO: Customize the draft invitation included in the toolkit, copy and paste it into the body of an email, and hit send to invite your Congress members.

STEP THREE: Promote the event using the National Park Trust’s media kit (included in the Kids to Parks Day Advocacy Toolkit), and ask the mayor or local elected officials to sign a Kids to Parks Day proclamation.

STEP FOUR: On Kids to Parks Day (Saturday, May 19), share photos and videos during the event, tagging attending members of Congress and using the hashtags #KidstoParks and #ParkChampion.

STEP FIVE: Tell us about the event at www.nrpa.org/ktp and enter to win some great prizes!

PARK CHAMP TIP: If a member of Congress can’t attend, invite his or her staff members.

For assistance with planning a Kids to Parks Day event, contact NPT at kidsto​parksday@parktrust.org. To turn your event into a Park Champion event by inviting your members of Congress, contact NRPA Advocacy and Outreach Manager Jayni Rasmussen or 703.858.4731. We can’t wait to see your Kids to Parks Day event!

Jayni Rasmussen is NRPA’s Advocacy and Outreach Manager.