New Partnerships Encouraging City Teens To Explore The World of PA State Parks
HARRISBURG — Buoyed by success last summer in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is broadening an urban recreation initiative to introduce more young people to the adventure, natural beauty and learning opportunities found in their state parks.
After opening early last week, DCNR’s Youth Adventure Camp has been held, or is planned in six more cities where DCNR and local recreation staff partner. Besides Harrisburg and Philadelphia, events will also be held in Pittsburgh, Williamsport, Erie, Scranton, York and the Allentown area.
“We know our pilot effort last summer achieved a major goal—to introduce inner-city young people to parks and activities that are often far removed from their neighborhoods,” said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “Many state parks are not in urban areas. These partnerships with cities are opening new opportunities to connect our state parks with urban youth.
“We hope an exciting outdoor adventure will not only make them repeat visitors, but will teach them about diversity in the natural world so, as citizens, they are lifelong stewards and make wise decisions about what our world looks like,” DiBerardinis said.
A return to Harrisburg is welcome news for Rick Hicks, who last year watched teens — many of whom he knew—file off a van for a day of hiking at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center near Carlisle, Cumberland County. The experience “opens a whole new world” to his young charges, said the sports and special program coordinator for Harrisburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“You know it’s working when a kid who lives to play basketball every day tells you, ‘I really had fun’,” Hicks said. “And that could have been fishing for the first time, or looking for fossils. One kid actually had the confidence to start swimming lessons.”
Another city, another endorsement from a Philadelphia Parks and Recreation official:
“I believe that a seed has been planted that will become an opportunity for them to reach beyond their current world,” said Kathi Muller. “We may never fully know the impact of the experience, but rest assured that each young person attending Youth Adventure Camp has been touched in some way.”
Participants, ranging in age from 12 to 15, already are involved in recreational programs in their hometown neighborhoods.
Park activities will include team building, compass use/orienteering, photography, survival skills, fishing, horseback riding, boating, disc golf, knot tying, beekeeping, gardening, climbing and rappelling, and camping.
The Youth Adventure Camp is being held this week at the Boys and Girls Club of Erie, the United Neighborhood Centers in Scranton, and the Wildlands Conservancy in the Lehigh Valley. The camp has already been held in the other cities.
For more information on any of Pennsylvania’s 117 state parks, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us.