Go Camping. Combat Nature-Deficit Disorder.

According to Robert Louv’s 2005 book, Nature-Deficit Disorder is the “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illness” as a result of too much time indoors and not enough time out.

The solution? An good ol’ fashioned camping trip.

Find out more about it here.

Parks Strategy 7: Conservation Corps Programs

 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.

Parks Strategy 6: Joint Use Agreements

 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 #6: Encourage joint use agreements between schools, parks and recreation centers.

Schools, child care centers and after-school agencies are natural partners. Connecting teachers and students to local parks and other natural spaces has multiple benefits. Applying classroom environmental concepts in a natural setting enhances the educational experience. Children who experience natural places will be the environmental stewards of tomorrow, and encouraging children to experience the outdoors will ensure that children are exercising their bodies and their minds. Ohio’s local parks and recreation agencies can strengthen the relationship with their community schools to leverage public resources and provide enhanced education and health benefits to Ohio’s youth. The No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI), would expand environmental education curriculum in schools. NCLI encourages partnerships between schools and park agencies to provide students with field-based education opportunities. Passage of NCLI will give students and teachers an opportunity to increase their understanding of the natural world.

Parks Strategy 5: Natural Play Areas

 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 #5: Encourage construction of natural play areas at parks, recreation centers and nature centers, as well as “nearby nature” locations like schools and child care centers. 

The National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative are developing national guidelines for natural play areas at child care and early childhood learning centers. These guidelines will provide useful information about how public spaces can be designed for use by many children so that children in the most urban of environments can experience the sense of creativity and discovery inherent in unstructured free-play.

  • At Parks And Recreation Centers:
    Parks and recreation agencies in Ohio are embracing the concept of natural play areas. Park managers are designating remote sites as natural play areas where children climb trees, crawl through hollow logs, romp in the dirt and explore wet areas instead of using the manufactured equipment featured in traditional playgrounds. Says John O’Meara, Executive Director of Metro Parks, “Natural Play Areas in the Metro Parks are designed to encourage children to discover nature while encouraging creativity. The freedom to explore the fields and streams will increase the likelihood of “WOW” moments that inspire the next generation of stewards of Ohio’s precious natural resources.
  • Country’s Largest Natural Playscape Demonstration Site:
    Across Ohio, schools and childcare centers are looking at how they might naturalize their school grounds. Creating public spaces for children to experience free play requires some thought. It is one thing for a child to dig in the family backyard, but quite another to have twenty children sharing a public space! In Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Nature Center have partnered to create what will be the country’s largest natural playscape. It will serve as a demonstration model for those wishing to create such spaces.
  • Wild School Sites – Assistance And Funding Available:
    Statewide, WILD School Sites are considered an extension of Project WILD and can involve any school property used by students, teachers, and the school community as a place to learn about and benefit from wildlife and the environment. The sites function within the premise that every school, regardless of size and location, can provide outdoor educational opportunities that can and should be part of any integrated education program. The Ohio Division of Wildlife provides four basic forms of assistance to schools and organizations that are interested in having an outdoor classroom, including planning of sites, grant assistance, workshops and certification.

Parks Strategy 4: Field Trips

 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 #4: Create programs to provide schools and nonprofit organizations with funds for field trips to parks and other natural areas. 

As stated earlier in the report, “real field trips are better than virtual field trips”. In Ohio, an Environmental Literacy Plan is being developed to address how to increase students’ ability to have these experiences. Passage of the No Child Left Inside Act that is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would provide funding for these activities.

Parks Strategy 3: Increase Awareness

 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 # 3: Increase public awareness of the facilities, programs and trails that exist in Ohio.

In talking with people in communities throughout the state, one of the most common requests is a “one stop shop” for information about the location of trails and natural spaces, as well as information about nature programs. Busy families want easy access to information about what is happening on any given day of the week and need detailed information to plan family outings. Collaboration among parks, recreation centers, nature centers, camps and others is needed to develop community-wide websites with this information. Ideally, that data could be linked to a statewide website. Collaboration with businesses in related areas like recreational equipment might ease the financial burden on state and local agencies in the creation of such a website. Currently, bicycle trail maps are available at www. dot. state. oh. us/bike by clicking on “Ohio Bikeways.”

Parks Strategy 2: Support Development

 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 #2: Support the development of greenbelts, greenways and trails by encouraging the creation of a statewide trails master plan, provide technical assistance to counties and municipalities to develop master plans and provide technical assistance to developers wishing to connect public trails.

In addition to having natural areas for children and families to visit, easy access to these sites is essential. Their value is enhanced when they are connected to each other by greenways and trails. Having a statewide trails master plan assists developers, counties and municipalities in making urban planning decisions that would increase the connectivity of these spaces.

  • Clean Ohio Trails Fund:
    Administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, provides grants for community projects that complete regional trail systems and links to the statewide trails plan, link population centers with outdoor recreation areas and facilities, preserve natural corridors and link urban areas to support commuter access and provide economic benefits. The investments help facilitate travel, enhance recreational opportunities and provide safe, scenic areas where Ohioans can hike, bike or run and build healthy lifestyles. To date, the Clean Ohio Trails Fund has dedicated more than $39 million to provide thousands of Ohioans with better access to recreational opportunities through the creation of more than 263 miles of trails and the acquisition of 94 acres of abandoned railroad and greenway corridors.
  • SCORP:
    The Ohio Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with regional, state and federal partners publishes the Ohio Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). The SCORP serves as a master plan for the state trails system and is a guide to outdoor recreation land acquisition, facility and development, programming and management in the state of Ohio for a five-year planning period. The primary goal of the SCORP is to provide a contemporary assessment of outdoor recreation in Ohio and to recommend ways in which public, private and independent agencies might strive to meet identified needs within the constraints of the state’s social, economic and natural resources. The SCORP is the most comprehensive source of data on regional and statewide outdoor recreation in Ohio, and can serve as a valuable tool for decision making for a variety of providers.

Parks Strategy 1: Support Existing Organizations

 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 #1: Support the organizations that already provide facilities and programs that allow children to experience the natural world. 

Statewide, Ohio’s diverse and popular state parks system is in jeopardy. The budget for general operating funds for the Ohio State Parks has been cut by more than $17. 5 million since 2000 despite rising costs for salaries, equipment and fuel. All organizations, from municipal parks and recreation centers to scout camps are experiencing budget cuts that put their continued existence at risk. Ohio’s leaders and citizens need to be aware of the value of these organizations. Too often, these facilities and programs are targeted for budget cuts as low priority services. To the contrary, they play a crucial role in public health, in the education of our children and the ability of our communities to attract new residents. Developing strategic alliances between nature facilities and programs, schools and health care providers can help to assure the sustainability of natural resources and outdoor experiences. Such alliances would leverage limited dollars to do “triple duty” – getting children active in a healthy, outdoor environment, educating them through nature experiences, and at the same time supporting our parks, camps, recreation facilities and other natural spaces.

  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a federal landscape protection grant program that has protected natural resources and developed parks and trails in all 88 Ohio counties since it was enacted in 1965. The LWCF is authorized at $900 million annually, but the program has never reached that level because Congress has moved money from the LWCF into other non-related programs or to reduce the deficit. There is legislation moving through the House and Senate that would provide full and dedicated funding for the LWCF upon final passage of the bill. A fully funded LWCF would mean more outdoor resources for children and families in Ohio.
  • Explore the Outdoors:
    A statewide program designed to reunite children with nature. The program, administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, provides Ohio parents, educators and youth leaders with an easy guide to lead Ohio’s young people into the outdoors. The Explore the Outdoors youth activity guide, which is distributed to more than 700,000 Ohio public school children each year, recommends a variety of outdoor activities, including spot a bird, splash in a stream or camp under the stars, which can be completed at parks, wildlife areas, preserves and forests throughout Ohio. Families may also complete some of the activities at area events, local parks, and green spaces or even at home.
  • Wild Outdoor Women:
    In Alliance, Ohio, Stark Parks recognized that many women, especially single moms, do not feel comfortable taking their kids on outdoor adventures. The Wild Outdoor Women Retreat is designed to offer a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for women to experience nature through outdoor activities, including kayaking, canoeing, birding, biking, archery, fishing, campfire building and cooking, survival skills, and more. The event is designed and instructed by women to create a non-threatening and social atmosphere. The desired outcome is to create a bond between the participants and nature, so that these women will feel confident to continue the activities and lead family members into the outdoors.
  • Project WILD:
    A supplementary education program for young people, emphasizing awareness, appreciation, and understanding of wildlife and natural resources. Through this program, students in kindergarten through twelfth grade learn basic concepts about wild animals, their needs and importance, and their relationships to people and the environment. The Project WILD curriculum has been correlated to Ohio’s PreK-12 academic content standards in Science and Social Studies. Project WILD activity guides are available to educators free of charge.