A very nice story in the Sacramento Bee about getting urban kids—many of whom have never been there or even knew it existed—out on the Parkway.
Deep in the woods of River Bend Park, children’s laughter rang clear beneath a canopy of rustling leaves. They skipped and skidded their way along winding dirt trails, backed by a chorus of chirps and tweets instead of gunshots.
The eight boys and girls traveled to the park from Meadowview, Elder Creek and other Sacramento neighborhoods where crime is a part of daily life. This summer they’ll get a reprieve from the violence – at least when they’re taking part in a special program that helps expose urban kids to the outdoors.
“This reins us back to where we need to be, away from the cars and the noise,” said Carlton Malone, 12, of south Sacramento. “There’s a lot of bad people in my area. I’ve gotten used to it after a while, but it’s been getting sketchy lately. Getting close to Fourth of July, fireworks and gunfire sound the same.”
Malone and about 20 other urban youths age 5 to 12 will exercise, meditate and learn outdoor skills this summer on the American River Parkway, the 23-mile stretch of public land between Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake. The Recreate for Health program is a new project of the American River Parkway Foundation, made possible by a $25,000 grant from Dignity Health.
The foundation partnered with two neighborhood nonprofit groups, Always Knocking and Hooked on Fishing Not on Violence, to recruit children who might not otherwise get enough time outdoors.
So far the kids have cycled, hiked, created nature-inspired art and tried yoga. Throughout the summer they’ll also learn about bicycle maintenance, nutrition and first aid, said Chris Aguirre, director of development for the foundation.
While suburban children often get out into nature with their families, most of the children in Recreate for Health didn’t even know the American River Parkway existed because they didn’t have a way to get there, Aguirre said. On program days, organizers pick up participants and transport them to a parkway site, where activities and snacks are provided free of cost.
“These kids should have just as much access as everybody else – this is a public health asset,” he said. “And it’s not a one-and-done. Having these ongoing experiences, and multiple access points, that’s important.”