Need some fresh air to clear your mind? How about a stroll through a garden to mellow out the stress of a busy day? Or maybe winter has packed on a few extra pounds and it’s time to hit the bike trails again.
America’s 394 national parks offer many close-to-home opportunities for outdoor recreation. A growing number of doctors even write “Park Prescriptions” to get patients outside and active. The growing connection between public lands and public health is the focus of National Park Week, April 16-24. Entrance to all national parks is free throughout the week.
“National parks have always been great places to go on vacation, have fun, and learn something, but for millions of Americans national parks are also a daily part of a healthy lifestyle” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “If you’ve never thought of your national parks that way, we’d like to invite you to come out to see how parks can help you meet your fitness goals. Getting outside and moving is the first step.”
However, you don’t have to work up a sweat to enjoy a national park. Take in a ranger talk or join a free guided tour. Or add some superlatives to your life list: the world’s tallest trees (sequoias), longest cave (Mammoth Cave), largest carnivore (Alaskan Brown Bear), or the United States’ highest peak (Mount McKinley), lowest point (Death Valley), or deepest lake (Crater Lake). Plan you visit at www.nps.gov.
In addition to waiving entrance fees throughout the week, national parks and park partners are offering programs as part of National Park Week festivities. On Saturday, April 16, many parks will be looking for volunteers to help with projects and on Saturday April 23, kids will be the special guests for the 5th annual Junior Ranger Day. More details at www.nps.gov/npweek.
Additional fee-free days scheduled for 2011 are June 21 (the first day of summer), September 21 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11-13 (Veterans Day Weekend).
If that first step toward fitness isn’t in a national park, it just might be in a place that the National Park Service helped to create. Through the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, and other programs, the National Park Service works with states and communities to create and expand local recreation opportunities outside of national parks. Learn more at www.nps.gov/communities.