Program Will Connect Local Young People with the Great Outdoors
Mayor Alvin Brown today announced that Jacksonville was selected by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a priority city for its new Youth in the Great Outdoors initiative.
The bold new initiative will work to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors. Mayor Brown joined National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell and Eric Mann, president & CEO of Florida’s First Coast YMCA, to announce that Jacksonville has been selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.
“I am proud that Jacksonville was selected to participate in this program to encourage our youth to explore the outdoors and become the next generation of environmental stewards for our city,” said Mayor Alvin Brown. “This initiative, in collaboration with the First Coast YMCA and our local and national parks, joins local programs already underway to get kids out of the house, off the street, and into parks and public lands throughout the city – and fits with Jacksonville’s urban parks initiatives.”
The initiative is funded through a $5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation and will provide two years of funding for the Florida’s First Coast YMCA to create a community coordinator position in Jacksonville to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on public lands. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during next year’s National Park Service centennial.
“Children across our nation are increasingly disconnected from nature, yet playing outside and learning about the natural world is fun, healthy and builds confidence in kids. Engaging volunteers of all ages in caring for parks and public lands in Jacksonville not only leverages public resources, it builds pride and a connection to these special places that stays with people forever,” said O’Dell. “Jacksonville is blessed with parks and national public lands close by, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership, with the financial support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community – particularly in urban areas like Jacksonville.”
"Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer," said Mann. "This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities to deepen connections to these natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community."
"Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express," said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. "Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks."
Launched by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in 2013, the Department’s youth initiative seeks to engage and employ the next generation to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. For more information about the initiative, visit: http://www.doi.gov/youth.