WAKE FOREST — A new program at E. Carroll Joyner Park aims to nurture a love of nature in the children who visit.
Through a grant from the Kids in Parks program, the trails at Joyner are now part of a network of trails across the country known as TRACK Trails.
At participating trails, children can check out brochures that teach them about local trees, birds, bugs or other wildlife. If they register their trail adventures online, they’re eligible for prizes such as journals and backpacks.
“Families already are taking their kids to Joyner Park, and this is a way to get those kids more engaged,” said Evan Keto, the town’s urban forester. Keto added that he hopes the program will encourage families who don’t usually visit the park to do so.
Wake Forest applied and was one of 10 communities in central North Carolina selected for a TRACK Trails grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina. Ten municipal parks each from the western and eastern parts of the state also will participate in the grant program.
More broadly, the Kids in Parks program was started by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield as a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors.
Officials at the Blue Ridge Parkway, the most visited portion of the National Park System, had noticed that despite drawing huge crowds, few people brought their children.
The groups wanted to change that and both ensure kids had opportunities for physical activity and foster a sense of park stewardship, said Jason Urroz, director of the Kids in Parks program.
“Otherwise, who’s going to stand up and protect nature?” he asked.
Once Kids in Parks began the program along the Blue Ridge Parkway, other groups quickly began calling to participate, from state parks to forests in North Carolina and beyond.
The latest three-year grant allows municipalities to participate in the program by providing them with a TRACK Trails display and brochures.