The Great Outdoors

Children on climbing wall
Photo Credit: Louisville/Jefferson County Parks Department

By David Richards

Access to parks, green spaces and natural areas has historically been a major challenge in the Louisville metropolitan area. The city ranked in the bottom quarter in the 2018 ParkScore Index from the Trust for Public Land, which surveys 100 US cities considering the parks’ access, acreage and investment.

Efforts at the Louisville Parks Department have started to change that narrative. Starting with inclusivity, community buy-in and evidence-based research, they have launched initiatives to bring children to nature, and inversely, nature to children. The West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative expands recreational amenities to under-served parks, and the Louisville ECHO program, or Engaging Children Outdoors, brings school children to parks for outdoor learning and job training.

The Louisville Parks Department knows their work will have a lasting positive health impact because they studied the research. The benefits of children exploring, learning, working together and recreating outdoors are threefold, increasing physical activity, reducing stress and isolation, and increasing the ability to focus.

To validate their research, data are being collected throughout the entire process to track hours spent outdoors. These metrics will then be correlated to health and wellness information.

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