|Our favorite camping trip of the year so far, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas.|
The park naturalist lead the hike and gave the usual speech about the ecology and history of the State Park, pretty standard. But what set him apart for me was his enthusiasm for connecting children with the outdoors, obviously a passion of mine as well. He helped my son learn to look a little closer. They found feathers, shells, wildlife tracks and plenty of ice. My son had so much fun we went back a few months later.
This experience got me thinking and for a while I was a little annoyed. Why do National Parks get all the attention? If we are going to raise the next generation to be outdoor enthusiasts they need to be regularly connecting with nature and having memorable experiences. And it takes a lot more than 58 parks scattered around the country to do that.
My son's experience on the First Day Hike was somewhat unique in that it was a lot more personal than most but it was very memorable for him. On this same hike the park manager was telling me about a new program that will connect fourth graders with the outdoors starting later this year. Without the work of our state and county conservation professionals many of our youth would not have access to natural areas. Are they getting enough credit for all they do? Not everyone lives close to a National Park. Here in Oklahoma we have National Historic Sites and Recreation Areas, but no National Parks.
|Roman Nose State Park, Oklahoma|