DEM Launches the Rhode Island Great Outdoors Pursuit – An initiative to Re-Connect Children and Their Families With the Outdoors

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PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management and the Office of Governor Donald L. Carcieri today announce the launch of the 2008 Rhode Island Great Outdoors Pursuit to encourage Rhode Island families to enjoy the recreational resources and outdoor activities our state parks have to offer, and to get moving toward a healthier lifestyle.

The game will take Rhode Island families to up to seven different state parks and forests this summer. Families can register for the game beginning today at: www.riparks.com. The contest kicks-off on Sunday, June 22 at Lincoln Woods State Park, Lincoln.

DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, Ph.D. says, “The timing of this initiative could not be better, as many Rhode Islanders are looking for free and low cost activities close to home this summer because of high gas prices and current economic conditions. The Great Outdoors Pursuit offers that and will also help improve the health of Rhode Islanders by encouraging them to turn off their computers, televisions and video games and re-discover the fresh air and fun of Rhode Island’s great outdoors.”

Rhode Islanders, especially children, are spending more time indoors, watching television, playing video games and surfing the internet. The result is that their activity levels have declined and their body weights have increased. In an effort to reverse this and other disturbing health trends, Governor Carcieri joined numerous partners in January to launch the Healthy Weight in 2008 campaign. The campaign is designed to encourage Rhode Island citizens to become more active, eat more nutritious diets, and understand the value of a healthy weight and lifestyle. As a No Child Left Inside supporter and a Healthy Weight in 2008 partner, the DEM is launching the Great Rhode Island Outdoors Pursuit to reconnect families with the outdoors, build the next generation of environmental stewards, and showcase state parks and forests.

“A lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating are contributing to chronic disease and higher health care costs in our state and nation. Unfortunately, children are affected by unhealthy lifestyles as much as adults,” said Governor Carcieri. “We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which used to be known as “adult onset” diabetes. The medical community is now saying that the present generation of children could be the first to live shorter life spans than their parents if their lifestyles don’t improve. As a community, we must get our children outdoors and active, and provide opportunities to reverse the trend.”

Over a 10-week period, teams will be challenged to visit different state forests and parks where they will participate in outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, fishing, geo caching, etc. Events will be either guided or self-guided. Guided events will include numerous activities such as fishing, hiking, biking and nature walks led by DEM, game partners and exhibitors. A self-guided event allows teams to visit a designated park whenever they can during the 10-week period and engage in an activity on their own.

Teams will receive points for participating in each event and will be eligible for prizes of outdoor equipment, donated by local retailers, at the finale on August 24. Prizes include: 1st Place – a complete camping gear and vacation package; 2nd Place – a kayak and a $125 gift certificate for kayak lessons; and, 3rd Place – a bike. The full 10-week schedule and game rules are a posted on the program website: www.riparks.com.

Support for the project comes from numerous game partners, including Eastern Mountain Sports, Hasbro, Inc., Kids First, REI, Rhode Island Department of Health, United HealthCare, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods Markets.

For more information, contact Steven Wright at (401) 222-2632 or email at RIparks [at] dem [dot] ri [dot] gov or Terri Bisson at (401) 222-3434, ext. 4402 or email at terri [dot] bisson [at] dem [dot] ri [dot] gov.