Great Outdoors Month 2007 Update

Great Outdoors Month 2007 began with a flourish, announced by a Presidential proclamation and through parallel actions by nearly half of the governors (to see copies of the proclamations, click here).

June 2 was National Trails Day and included some 1200 construction and maintenance projects across the nation. The next day marked the start of National Fishing and Boating Week, which included hundreds of events to introduce America’s youth to fun on and near the water. Great Outdoors Week followed and featured numerous high-profile events in the Nation’s Capitol, including the presentation of the 19th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award.

As the month progressed, the Conservation Fund convened a distinguished group of public and private community leaders constituting the National Forum on Children and Nature, an 18-month effort to find and fund 20 projects across the country that demonstrate how kids can rediscover nature, through education, health, the media and the built environment.

On June 21-23, Connecticut and its No Child Left Inside initiative became a focus for Great Outdoors Month. First, some 30 inner-city youth camped, sang, cooked, learned and played in the heart of downtown Hartford, adjacent to the state capitol, as the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and WOW-Wonderful Outdoor World joined to pilot the first WOW on the Road effort. The Coleman Company and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management Eastern States Office were key partners in this success, which was highlighted via a live broadcast as the lead story for WFSB (CBS affiliate) on the 11:00 p.m. news. To download a video clip of the broadcast, click here.

VIPs including DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy and Connecticut State Parks Director Pam Adams actively participated in the adventure. Action then moved east to Hopeville State Park. There Connecticut hosted the finale of its eight-week Great Park Pursuit 2007, an adventure based upon the Amazing Race television show that attracted thousands of participants to state parks and forests – many for the first time. Thanks to The Coleman Company, even families without their own camping equipment spent the night in the park. Moreover, the donated equipment will now be used in an on-going loaner program at state campgrounds. Combined with innovative practices such as park passes available for loan at libraries throughout the state, activities like the Great Park Pursuit are prompting Connecticut park visits to climb – in contrast to many other park systems.

Saturday, June 23, was also the Great American Backyard Campout – with nearly 3,000 registered “campouts,” ranging from single families to neighborhood gatherings.

And more is yet to come! Among the highlights remaining are major beach clean-ups during Clean Beaches Week, which begins on June 29.