An excuse to go traveling
Published 7:30 pm Saturday, February 21, 2015
Everyone who lives in the United States should see the Grand Canyon at least once in his or her lifetime. No photo, no video, can do it justice. It’s simply something that must be experienced in person.
There are other National Parks that top the list of “must-sees” — Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Teton, Glacier National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, Mesa Verde. Within the National Parks Service there are 405 areas covering more than 84 million acres: national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, even the White House. For a certain lucky group of children, and their families, entrance to all those places will be free for a year.
For the 2015-2016 academic year, fourth-graders throughout the U.S. will be given entrance to some of the most breathtaking sights the country has to offer. While children under 16 were already allowed free entry into parks, now that’s expanded to include adults in the family: any family interested in participating will receive an annual pass to the parks, which usually costs about $80.
It’s a good deal — a great deal, even — and the reasoning behind the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative is compelling. There’s the commemorative aspect: 100 years ago, the National Parks Service was founded. It has grown to encompass sites in every state and quite a few territories since. It’s launching a new program: $45 million for youth engagement programs, $20 million of which will be earmarked for youth activities in the National Parks Service.
But more important is the drive to get children away from their electronic devices and out exploring the natural environment. It’s estimated that children spend 53 hours a week using electronics: smartphones, laptops, televisions, Xboxes. It’s also estimated that 80 percent of American families live around cities, further limiting exposure to nature.
How does one grow up with an appreciation of nature without having experienced it? How can one take into adulthood the knowledge that these places of natural beauty, of history, of unspoiled wilderness, should be protected, if they remain remote, if not by distance, then financially?
This initiative is designed to get kids outside and get them interested in the wonders that make up the fabric of this country — parents can go along for the ride.
For every sibling and parent of Beaufort County’s 2015-2016 fourth graders: lucky you. Make sure to take lots of pictures during your travels.