Making tracks: Kids trails program earns recognition after decade of growth

In 2008, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation launched a new program aiming to get kids and families out exploring the high-elevation corridor. Ever since, the Kids in Parks program has mushroomed into a national endeavor with designated trails from San Diego, California, to Nags Head, North Carolina.

Kids in Parks was recognized for its decade of accomplishments when it won the Youth Engagement Award at the SHIFT Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The annual SHIFT Awards recognize individuals, initiatives and organizations that contribute to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.

“I don’t know that we envisioned that we would be in San Diego or in South Dakota, but we definitely set out to design it so it was going to be the next big thing in children’s nature programming, at least in the Blue Ridge,” said Kids in Parks Director Jason Urroz, who has been on board since the program’s inception. “It just so happens that nature deficit disorder, childhood obesity and people not spending time outdoors isn’t a Blue Ridge problem. It’s happening everywhere.”

The original idea behind Kids in Parks was to make outdoor exploration more accessible, simple and interactive for families by clearly identifying kid-friendly trails and having some sort of interpretation available to help kids learn about the plants, animals and other natural features they were seeing.

The program was developed as a self-guided experience offering brochures to help kids interact with and learn about the trails, dubbed TRACK Trails. Most TRACK Trails are 1- or 2-mile hikes with some sort of interesting feature along the way.

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