PARKS, OUTDOOR RECREATION AND EXPERIENCES – Ohio has a rich history of providing outdoor experiences, recreational opportunities and nature education. State and local parks, nature centers and recreation centers provide close-to-home opportunities for children to experience nature. Traditional nature camps allow children to be immersed in the natural world for extended periods of time. Zoos and museums share with visitors a more intimate knowledge of nature and inspire further investigation. And, each year, youth organizations like Camp Fire, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, along with non-profit organizations like the YMCA, give hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s children the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature. Whether a few minutes in a half-acre of wildflowers or a week long camping experience in thousands of 13acres of unbroken forest, outdoor experiences are vital to children’s development. The following actions can enhance the ability of these organizations to bring children quality nature experiences:
Strategy #7: Establish and fund Conservation Corps programs that support young people in doing construction and maintenance work on public lands.
This is another example of using funds to do “triple duty”. Youth need jobs, particularly during the summer months when they are out of school. Conservation Corps programs provide them with an income, get them active in a healthy environment, and help maintain public land.
- Recovery Conservation Corps:
In 2009, the Recovery Conservation Corps (RCC) was created through funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide employment opportunities with public benefit for young Ohioans ages 16 to 24. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources partnered with the Department of Job and Family Services as well as local and regional non-profit service agencies that focus on teens and young adults to match the RCC labor force with appropriate public projects. A total of 358 RCC workers were employed in 59 state parks, natural areas, state forests and wildlife areas. Examples of projects undertaken by the RCC crews included painting, general maintenance and improvements of facilities, trail improvements and removal of invasive species.
- Adventure Central:
A partnership Ohio State Extension, 4-H and Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton, offers a teen Job Experience and Training (JET) program. Since 2002, twenty urban minority teens each summer work eight weeks in various areas of Five Rivers MetroParks. The goal is to build 21st century skills and to introduce the teens to careers in parks, with the intent of creating future park leaders.