by Charles Cooper, executive vice president of Signal Group
Mother, daughter and grandmother take in the scenery at Capitol Reef National Park. Source: Ian D. Keating; Flickr.
Our public lands are some of the best venues for children to experience the outdoors and outdoor recreation. A new program may soon be available to help more kids visit and experience our public lands — including exploration by bike.
The House of Representatives just passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act (H.R. 3186), which will provide all fourth graders with free access to public lands and waters. These students can request an annual pass, which will allow them to have free access for themselves and up to three adults accompanying them, whether touring the lands on foot or by bicycle. This will help to provide greater access and eliminate financial barriers to children and their families.
Research has shown that between the ages of nine to eleven, kids are beginning to learn about the world around them, are more open to new ideas and are more likely to connect to the outdoors. Over time, the Every Kids Outdoors Act would provide access to every child in the fourth grade — broadly expanding the opportunity for children and their families to begin to experience our public lands. This legislation builds on a previous program (Every Kid in a Park), which facilitated fourth graders visiting our nation’s national parks.
Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) introduced the legislation in the House and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The legislation still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President.
Updates to the the progress of the Every Kid Outdoors Act will be posted here as new information becomes available.