New Program Will Grant Free Access to National Parks for Young Americans

Obama's 'Every Kid in a Park' initiative seeks to connect America's youth with more of the country's public lands

Yesterday, President Obama announced a new plan designed to help encourage young Americans and their families to visit and connect with America’s public lands and waters.

The initiative is called “Every Kid in a Park” and its goal is to connect four million fourth graders with America’s most treasured lands through the 2015-2016 school year.

“On-the-ground” efforts for the program will be led by the National Parks Foundation with help coming from the National Park Service and other government organizations including the Department of Education and Bureau of Land Management.

“Thanks to our public-private partnerships, we are able to open up a world of experiential learning in our nation’s largest classrooms – our national parks,” Dan Wenk, president of the National Park Foundation, said in a press release. “Every Kid in a Park will enhance this important work and will give many youth and their families the opportunity to explore our national parks for the first time.”

The program’s launch coincides with the National Park Service Centennial Initiative, a celebratory campaign focused on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which will take place on August 25, 2016.

The NPS says that together these initiatives are helping to advance one of the organization’s main goals: to connect and create the “next generation of national park visitors, supporters, and advocates."

According to the National Parks website, soon fourth graders will have access to their own Every Kid in a Park pass, which will provide them with free admission to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands.

With many studies showing that spending time outside is essential for maintaining both good physical and mental health, this initiative seems like a step in the right direction, not just for the advancement and expansion of America’s national parks (or what some call, “America’s best idea”), but also the health and well-being of U.S. children who, according to research are increasingly spending more and more time indoors.