GO-Day 2009

To combat the threats posed by today’s indoor, inactive lifestyles – such as the growing obesity epidemic and the projection that today’s kids will live shorter lives than their parents due to lifestyle choices – several hundred local, state and federal agencies, diverse nonprofit organizations in the health and youth-services fields, the recreation community and media interests teamed up to host the second annual National Get Outdoors Day (GO-Day) on June 13, 2009. The national effort was again led by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), but the number and diversity of the organizations involved nationally and locally increased sharply. Uniting these partners was a shared belief in the Mission of National Get Outdoors Day:

Unify public and private-sector interests in efforts to influence American lifestyles, especially among youth, in ways that maximize the physical, mental and other benefits derived from activities in the Great Outdoors through a focused effort to invite Americans to designated sites on a single day, as well as to highlight and assist the efforts of National Get Outdoors Day partners year-round.

GO-Day 2009 was built around offering opportunities for American families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities, regardless of past experience, skills or ownership of equipment. Those Americans currently underserved by visits to public lands and waters and youth – especially urban youth – were priority targets for the events. GO-Day organizers accepted a challenge: making the appeal of the great outdoors equal that of shopping malls and video games. And they met this challenge with exceptional results.

The second annual GO-Day featured over 60 official sites in more than 30 states – from Kingman Island in Washington, D.C. to Denver City Park in Colorado, from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington to the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. Collectively, these sites welcomed tens of thousands of new faces to the joy and healthy benefits of the great outdoors. The GO-Day events offered a mix of information centers and "active fun" areas – places where guests could climb a rock wall, ski on dry land, practice mountain bike skills, cast a fishing line, go geocaching, help pitch a tent and more. Many sites provided photo opportunities with characters like Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and other interesting creatures, and some sites featured areas that focused on other aspects of healthy living, including sustainability, good nutrition and outdoor ethics. The goal was to ensure that the fun and excitement of GO-Day triggered a resolution for participants to make getting outdoors part of their everyday lives.

In addition to activities at the GO-Day events, participants were invited to nearby follow-up opportunities, called EChO-events, occurring throughout the summer. EChO-events include introductions to mountain biking and fly-fishing, hikes with rangers to see wildlife, rock climbing experiences, kayaking and rafting and much more. EChO-events involve a hosting agency or organization and partners that assist by providing equipment and instruction. GO-Day also provided a great platform for providing the public with information on Great Outdoors Month activities, including National Trails Day® and the Great American Backyard Campout, and the special opportunities made possible by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s action designating one weekend each month during the summer of 2009 as fee-free for national parks! More information on the fee-free weekends can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

The pilot effort of National Get Outdoors Day was launched on June 14, 2008, in response to a growing number of disturbing reports about today’s youth, particularly in relationship to their health and daily activities. Today’s children spend 6.5 hours per day in front of a screen and are six times more likely to play a computer game than to ride a bike. Kids report that outdoor adventure is fun – but that outdoor activities are invisible, lost in a clutter of mass media ads, road signs and information over phones and computers, overshadowed by malls offering food, friends and “perfect” weather. Building on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other important efforts to connect Americans – and especially children – with nature and active lifestyles, the U.S. Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition agreed to lead an inclusive, nationwide effort focusing on a single day when people would be inspired and motivated to get outdoors. GO-Day brought federal, state and local agencies, key enthusiast organizations and recreation businesses together to create a healthy, fun day of outdoor adventure aimed at reaching first-time visitors to public lands and reconnecting children to the outdoors.

The achievements of GO-Day 2009 are impressive:

  • 25,000+ American families and children participated in GO-Day events across the nation
  • Hundreds of partners (including over 200 new participating organizations) made GO-Day events possible due to their generous support, time and donations. Giveaways donated by The Coleman Company, Clif Bar, U.S. Forest Service and many more provided additional incentives for GO-Day participants to enjoy the outdoors beyond GO-Day
  • 62 official sites in 32 states and the District of Columbia celebrated GO-Day; additionally, there were a number of non-official sites that helped achieve GO-Day goals
  • GO-Day enjoyed widespread media coverage, including numerous print and online articles, radio spots, television and news features, YouTube clips, pages and articles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and more
  • GO-Day was specifically mentioned in some of the 46 state proclamations of Great Outdoors Month and provided a showcase for local actions by governors and mayors

The visibility of GO-Day has only continued to increase as excitement about the event builds across the nation. Dramatic increases in partner organizations and media coverage demonstrate the growing enthusiasm and support for the event dedicated to getting people engaged in healthy, outdoor activities. The GO-Day National Coordinating Committee will continue gathering suggestions on how to build and improve GO-Day events across the nation. The suggestions already received for improving GO-Day 2010 include the following:

  • Begin planning each event at least six months in advance. This schedule allows each site to have an achievable timetable for planning and advertising and optimizes opportunities to invite diverse groups of participating organizations and guests.
  • Create a core planning committee or group for each event. Delegating responsibilities takes the stress off one planner and invites everyone to contribute their different skill sets to the event.
  • Invite exhibitors to a planning meeting at the event site prior to GO-Day. Allowing exhibitors to ask logistical questions prior to the event day helps the event set-up run more smoothly.
  • Provide maps to help move guests around the event in a logical manner. Make sure all guests are welcomed as they enter the event and receive a map of all activities offered.
  • Keep exhibitors concentrated in one area. This set-up maintains a higher level of excitement and energy during the event and keeps any exhibitors from feeling left out of the action.
  • Increase exhibits that focus on the health and wellness aspects of outdoor recreation. These exhibits can help people make the connection between outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles.
  • Bring in exhibitors and participants from many different local cultures. It is important to make the outdoors relevant to culturally diverse audiences. Make sure these guests feel welcomed at the event by providing materials in many different languages.
  • Increase visibility of volunteers. It’s important to let guests easily know where to find answers to their questions.
  • Encourage exhibitors to have hands-on activities for GO-Day participants. GO-Day events are meant to introduce guests to healthy, ACTIVE outdoor fun.
  • Offer healthy food to guests to play up the connection between the outdoors and health.
  • Consider live music or performances at the event to keep energy levels high.
  • Have a back-up plan in case of inclement weather.

The GO-Day National Coordinating Committee welcomes any additional feedback from guests and participants of GO-Day 2009. Plans for GO-Day 2010 are already underway across the nation. If you would like to host a GO-Day event in 2010, please contact the American Recreation Coalition at arc@funoutdoors.com or 202-682-9530.

For more information on GO-Day, please visit: www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.

GO-Day is an outgrowth of the Get Outdoors USA! campaign, which encourages Americans, especially our youth, to seek out healthy, active outdoor lives and embrace our parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. Working with the FS, Get Outdoors USA! hosted six recreation forums in early 2007 and learned that public lands were missing the right triggers to capture the attention of today's youth. The GO-Day concept was first tested at the Outdoor Recreation Village at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona, which drew over 100,000 visitors. For more information on the Outdoor Recreation Village, visit http://www.funoutdoors.com/node/view/2016.

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