‘Getting outdoors and into wild areas is good for you’ – this is not a controversial statement. Very few people would disagree that getting outside, disconnecting from technology and appreciating nature is something that we all need more of, not less—especially our kids.
This is one of the reasons the Land and Water Conservation Fund is so important – it makes it easier for people to get outdoors. No matter how important and beneficial the outdoors can be, not everyone lives near easily accessible places or has the financial means to get there. Not every family can jump in their car and drive out to the nearest National Park and go camping. How do you get outdoors if you don’t have a car? How do you experience America’s iconic National Parks, like Grand Teton in Wyoming, if you live in the metropolitan east? Close to home recreation and connecting kids with the outdoors are very serious issues that the Land and Water Conservation Fund and many organizations that partner with the LWCF Coalition are working to address.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is important to the organization that I help lead – City Kids Wilderness Project. City Kids is a youth development nonprofit serving over 130 D.C. urban youth and uses the outdoors as a vehicle to inspire confidence and resiliency within its students. Instead of just taking students out for occasional weekend excursions into the outdoors, City Kids runs a 7-year program starting in 6th grade that builds meaningful connections for their youth to the outdoors. During the school year, we provide our students with afterschool academic support, leadership development, and weekend outdoor adventures. But during the summer, we show kids the wider, wilder world by taking them out to Jackson, WY for summer camp as well as career exploration and job training programming for older students.
What is even more incredible is the tremendous impact we are having within the community as over 97% of the youth who have graduated from our program in the last 5 years have graduated from high school, compared to just 69% of their D.C. peers. In addition, 90% of these youth have enrolled in either a two or four year college program, the military, or vocational schooling. The message is clear; long-term participation in City Kids programming leads to academic success and career opportunities.
In addition to spending the summer in Wyoming and getting outdoors, each year four high school youth have the opportunity along side of Exum Mountain Guides to summit the Grand Teton at 13,776 feet and marvel at the views of the Grand Teton National Park from above - the same place that LWCF recently invested $23 Million to permanently protect land in the middle of the park that was at risk of development.
City Kids Wilderness Project is helping to get people outdoors who may not have the opportunity to otherwise – something we can all agree is a real area of need. We must ensure that the next generation of Americans has the same love for the outdoors and our amazing public lands that we do.
We also must ensure that our public lands are in the same condition – or better – for future generations. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is our most important tool for doing that. It is the only federal program designed to finance our National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands. Yet after 52 years of success, this wildly popular, bipartisan-supported program could expire in less than 52 weeks. This program works—and it helps City Kids work. America’s outdoors is for everyone, and from backyards to the backcountry, LWCF is committed to access for all. Congress must act before our most important conservation and recreation program expires!
Senior Development Associate
The City Kids Wilderness Project