Getting kids back into the woods
Thinking back to all the fun I had outdoors as a kid is not a difficult thing to do.My three cousins and I grew up in what today would be considered a rough neighborhood. We were wild boys running free range through yards and vacant lots to play well after dark with all the kids on our block. Boys or girls, we didn’t care.It wasn’t all gentle play, either. We built toy guns out of wood that shot huge rubber bands cut from used tire tubes. A clothespin glued on the top released the bands, and when they hit flesh, they left welts.No, we didn’t put anyone’s eyes out, and there were no trips to the hospital. We were tough.Kids of today would have a hard time finding anything but a tubeless tire and wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to find a clothespin, or what one looked like.Besides, if you believe Richard Louv, kids don’t play outdoors anymore. They are too attached to their electronic gadgets.Mr. Louv wrote “Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” The book reveals a great divide between children of today and nature as I and most of my generation knew her.It’s a trend that hadn’t entered my mind until reading this book. The book’s effect on leaders in the Forest Service and their partners engaged in the outdoors has been to put their concerns into action.On March 1 in Golden, a special recreation forum will be held. Experts from across the country are invited to seek ways to get young people back outdoors and onto their public lands.Groups that sometimes oppose each other will sit down at the same table, in break-out groups and panels, to discuss possible ways to shape recreational opportunities for youth now and in the future.The American Recreation Coalition and the National Forest Foundation are convening these regional forums. Others will be held in Georgia, California, Oregon and Illinois, culminating in a national recreation forum in Washington, D.C., in April.It’s a privilege for me to be a part of the Colorado team arranging for this to happen.Besides members of land management agencies, those participating at this time include Access Colorado, Blue Ribbon Coalition, Colorado DOW, Colorado 14ers, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Ski Country USA, Colorado Snowmobile Association, Colorado Youth Corp. Association, Leave No Trace and Volunteers of Outdoor Colorado.What this all comes down to is whether or not land management agencies will have any relevance to the youth of tomorrow.Those of us from the generation who grew up as kids playing in the woods chose an outdoor career in large part because of a love for the outdoors. Most of us will soon be retiring from public service.What legacy will be ours if we leave behind young people who never knew the physical, mental and spiritual benefits playing in the woods can bring to our lives?I’ll keep you posted.With more than 25 years experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and concerns with readers every other week.
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