UP supporting National Park Foundation programs

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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At the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Minnesota, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staffer assists students in locating and identifying birds along the Big River Journey boat’s path. National Park Service photo.

Union Pacific, a National Park Foundation (NPF) premier partner for the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque movement, helps support the Open OutDoors for Kids program, which is providing 132 national parks with grants totaling $2.3 million “to connect young people to national parks through meaningful, educational and engaging activities, and encourage kids to build lifelong connections to these special places.”

Part of UP’s $3 million long-term commitment to the NPF supports programs at parks across the country including: The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in the Twin Cities region, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas.

At the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, students will visit the park and neighboring sites for outdoor learning tied to the civil rights movement, including the “Separate but Equal” doctrine and struggles for equal access to public recreational areas such as swimming pools, campgrounds, playgrounds and beaches.

At the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, students will climb aboard “floating classroom” riverboats for programs such as Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls. In the 2018-2019 school year, a winter pilot program will focus on winter ecology and snow science, and up to 10 River Educators will run programs and engage with local schools and community partners.

At the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, the parks will add approximately 2,000 students from Fresno County Schools to their education programs, which currently reach 25,000 students from the counties of Fresno and Tulare annually. Students will learn about their natural surroundings and how they can help preserve public lands through classroom ranger programs and park field trips.

“More than 200,000 children across the country will visit national parks during the 2018-2019 school year, thanks to grants from the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service,” NPF said. “These grants, which total more than $2.3 million, provide funding to facilitate field trips to national parks, with a special focus on underserved communities. Recognizing that transportation is one of the greatest barriers preventing youth from exploring national parks, this strategic funding will help provide comprehensive access to natural, cultural, historical and recreational parks across the country.”

“Trekking along trails, observing our natural ecosystems and engaging with our shared history are experiences that benefit all children,” said National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. “Making it possible for hundreds of thousands of kids to explore our national parks is an investment in their future and the future of the national parks community.”

The NPF is also supporting Open OutDoors for Kids Focus City programs, which “provide transportation funding for field trips, foster collaboration among local partners and raise awareness about the importance of connecting children to the outdoors. The National Park Service and the NPF will continue to identify additional cities and park locations to participate in this program, based on available funding.”

Read the full list of grantees and their projects. Individuals, foundations and companies can contribute to the National Park Foundation’s efforts to connect kids to national parks.

Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.

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