Midwest Region RTCA staff partner with local agencies to benefit local youth

National Park News Thursday, Jul 19, 2012

This summer the Midwest Region Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) staff is teaming up with The Salvation Army, Live Well Omaha, Omaha Public Schools, Omaha Parks and Recreation, and Project Wild Nebraska to introduce youth living in north Omaha to fun outdoor experiences and healthy lifestyles. Midwest Region RTCA Program Director David Thomson said, “Through our partnerships with these great organizations and others, we plan to provide an educational experience that will help build the foundation for enjoying the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle. This year, especially, we plan to learn as much from the youth as we have to offer.”

The multi-agency project is called the Summer Wilderness Adventure Group and engages youth between the ages of 7-13 years right in their neighborhood to learn about outdoors and healthy choices for physical activity and nutrition.

The initial program is being held in northeast Omaha which is a densely populated, low-income region with few outdoor recreational programs. There are parks in the area, but accessing them can be difficult.

Programs held each week start in the youths’ local neighborhood park and end with a trip to a camp along the Missouri River. Each week the kids will ‘accidently’ learn about the benefits of good nutrition, outdoor activities, and natural resources while having fun outdoors. Each partner will lead one session, but will coordinate following the same themes.

“We are looking forward to teaming up with a great group of partnering organizations in an effort to expose the kids from our program to the outdoors and many different types of nature programs they would otherwise not be able to experience,” said Jim Sells, Director of The Salvation Army North Corps Community Center. “We have a great opportunity to open up their minds to the many untapped resources and exciting outdoor components that are near their neighborhoods.”

The Summer Wilderness Adventure Group embraces a number of the NPS Call to Action challenges:

Action #2 – Step by Step – Urban youth will be introduced to outdoor recreation and natural resources in fun, incremental activities. The long-range goal is to encourage the youth to consider future study and work options related to being outdoors.

Action #5 – Parks for People – This project creates multi-year, incremental outdoor experiences for disadvantaged youth living in a high density urban setting. The youth will look for future opportunities to be outdoors and to take advantage of trails and green spaces in their community.

Action #6 – Take a Hike, Call Me in the Morning – The youth will learn being outside, physically active, and nutritious food can be fun. The youths’ lives will be enhanced through better nutrition and outdoor recreation.

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