Kids in Parks

    Mission statement 

    The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program engages kids and families in outdoor recreation to foster lifelong wellness and meaningful connections to public lands.

    Kids in Parks accomplishes this by working with partners throughout the United States to create a network of self-guided TRACK Trails that convert ordinary hikes into fun-filled, discovery-packed adventures. These early-childhood experiences support the health of children and parks and public lands through the development of future stewards who understand the benefits of leading an active lifestyle that includes outdoor recreation and nature.

    Core focus area 

    Kids in Parks is designed using best practices and research indicating proven methods to impact behavior in a free-choice learning environment. Primary components of the program include:

  • Self-guided, brochure-led trail materials
  • Network of partner locations that cross land management agency boundaries
  • Healthcare providers prescribing the network of trails to their patients
  • Incentive systems to track and reward participation in the program
  • Free outdoor activities that are fun for children and families
  • Kids in Parks partners with park and public land management agencies to convert preexisting trails into kid- and family-friendly TRACK Trails through the installation of self-guided materials that engage visitors more meaningfully with the environment. Each TRACK Trail has four brochure-led adventures, allowing children of different ages and interests to select the brochure topic that is of most interest to them, or allowing them to visit the same trail multiple times to complete new adventures. Kids that complete TRACK Trails adventures are encouraged to register their trail adventures through and earn a series of prizes designed to incentivize participation in the program and make their next outdoor adventure more meaningful and fun. Data collection is built-in to the registration component of the program, with data analysis informing program design and modification; and, annual data reports are provided to park and funding partners to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness.

    To date, Kids in Parks has installed more than 200 TRACK Trail locations in 12 states and Washington, D.C. The program is unique in its ability to cross agency boundaries, creating a national network of trails that links national parks, state parks, city/county parks, and other public lands together to achieve the overarching mission of getting kids reconnected to nature.

    The brochures and prizes make the program fun and engaging for kids and families, and—except for the occasional park entrance fee—the cost for participation is free.

    To better align the program with improved health, Kids in Parks created the accompanying TRACK Rx program—our version of Park Prescriptions (Park Rx) or Nature Prescriptions. Through this initiative, Kids in Parks partners with hospital partners and private practice doctor offices, allowing healthcare providers to formally prescribe outdoor recreation and the program’s network of TRACK Trail adventures to their patients. And, as with the TRACK Trail component of the program, a registration system and data collection is built-in to the process, allowing Kids in Parks to provide real-time feedback to providers about their patients’ participation in the program.

    Intended outcomes 

    Through TRACK Trails, Kids in Parks connects kids and families with the natural, cultural, and historical resources that make our parks and public lands special places, instilling a sense of appreciation for nature and the environment while improving their health through increased physical activity and mental well-being.

    Details about intended outcomes for this case study are restricted to members only.