West Elk Loop Scenic Byway to get ‘Kid-Healthy’ tourism aid | PostIndependent.com

West Elk Loop Scenic Byway to get ‘Kid-Healthy’ tourism aid

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The four counties along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway have landed one of five spots in a new state initiative to develop kid-healthy family vacation ideas.

Together, Garfield, Gunnison, Pitkin and Delta counties convinced the Colorado State Byway program that they have many healthy activities for families that can be linked together by driving the West Elk Loop.

The Kid-Healthy Vacation program is the brainchild of Lenore Bates, coordinator of Colorado Scenic Byways, a part of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Bates learned that Colorado was the leanest state in the union in 2010, with an adult obesity rate of 19 percent. However, the state’s child obesity rate skyrocketed from fourth-lowest to 23rd-lowest between 2003 and 2007. It was the second fastest increase in the nation, second only to Nevada.

Youngsters are spending more time engaged with electronic entertainment – an average of five hours a day – and increasingly less time outdoors. Consequences include poorer academic performance, limited familiarity with the natural world and fewer physical abilities, Bates learned.

She sought the advice of a few colleagues and developed a program aimed at getting more kids and their families to enjoy the outdoors.

Scenic Byway communities were then asked to submit proposals to promote fun outdoor recreation opportunities for kids of all ages at various spots along the byway in all four seasons.

Each of the five byway regions have named three committee members who will help coordinate the efforts along their route and work to identify restaurants, lodges, tour operators, private attractions, parks and public lands and work with their managers to build a planned itinerary along the byway for each season.

The Kid-Healthy Vacation program will offer technical assistance to businesses located along the scenic byways. Workshops on creating kid-healthy menus will be offered by chefs, and lodging specialists will present ideas for motels, campgrounds and RV parks.  Retail specialists will educate local business on the opportunities presented by families and kids as customers.

The result will be offering kid-friendly travel options throughout the year for families with young children, middle-school or high school students.

The West Elk Scenic Byway will be represented by Laurie Stevens, Stevens Group, Inc., Pitkin County; John Hoffmann, West Elk Loop Byway Chairman, Garfield County; Jane Chaney, Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, Gunnison County; and Kelli Hepler, Delta County Tourism Cabinet, Delta County.

“We thought that our byway would be a good choice due to our already existing desire to offer healthy food, diverse outdoor recreation and comfortable lodgings,” Hepler says. “The West Elk Loop will benefit from additional publicity and new visitors along the byway.”

More information will become available soon so families can get their kids out of cyberspace and into open space.

Go to http://www.coloradobyways.org to learn more about the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway and the state’s 25 designated byways.

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