Boston part of Obama initiative to engage young people in great outdoors
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined National Parks Services Director Jonathan Jarvis in Boston to officially launch a nationwide U.S. Department of Interior effort to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. The effort is a partnership with the YMCA of the USA and funded through a $5 million commitment from American Express to help the Department reach its goal of one million volunteers on public lands annually.
Under Mayor Walsh's leadership, Boston's parks are cleaner, safer, more lively, and more accessible than ever. Last year the City renovated 16 neighborhood parks, from a new tot lot at Billings Field in West Roxbury to a soccer field in Lopresti Park in East Boston. 97 percent of Bostonians live within a 10-minute walk of a park—making Boston number one in the nation in access to parks.
"This initiative speaks to our shared goals for Boston," said Mayor Walsh. "Working together, we will encourage more children to play, learn, serve, and work outside. Here in the City of Boston, we are committed to giving our young adults the best opportunities to succeed."
The initiative will create a community coordinator position in Boston to engage young people in the outdoors and will allow the City to join the YMCA in hosting a community-wide summit to bring together stakeholders committed to these goals.
“Children across our nation are increasingly disconnected from nature, yet playing outside and learning about the natural world is fun, healthy and builds confidence in kids. Likewise, engaging volunteers of all ages in caring for parks and public lands not only leverages public resources, it builds pride and a connection to these special places that stays with people forever,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Boston is blessed with parks and national public lands close by, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through the 50 Cities Initiative, with the financial support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community – particularly in urban areas like Boston.”
The nationwide efforts will help leverage resources and support the goals of President Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that was launched in February that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s great outdoors.
“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America’s parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America’s public lands and treasured national parks.”
"Connecting children to open space is vital to the health and vitality of our comprehensive Parks system, said Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook. "The Boston Parks and Recreation Department looks forward to its continued partnership with the National Park Service to provide access and equity to all Boston's residents."
"The YMCA of Greater Boston is excited to partner with the city of Boston and the National Park Service," said Kelley Rice, YMCA of Greater Boston spokesperson. " Play, Learn, Serve and Work is a tremendous opportunity to engage community partners and Y members to connect in service to the community.
In the near future, The YMCA of Greater Boston will convene a community-based summit, bringing together private, public and nonprofit partners with expertise in conservation, recreation and education to identify opportunities to increase service on public lands."