Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day Saturday
Reprinted here in its entirety.
Alabama is a state of incredible and diverse natural beauty. We have an
ever-growing adult population who like to bike, hike, hunt, fish, bird watch,
swim and more.
But where are our children?
spend up to six hours a day watching TV or movies, on the Internet and playing
video games and a scant 30 minutes a week of unregulated time outdoors,
according to the American Recreation Coalition.
Joanne Ditmer of the
Denver Post says that our kids are nature-deprived. When they are outdoors,
they're more apt to be involved in some team competition, not just becoming
acquainted with flora and fauna, or enjoying the peace brought by special
With that lack of outdoor activity, children have become more
overweight. For the first time in our nation's history, kids' current life
expectancy is 3 to 5 percent less than that of their parents. We can't lose a
generation to "house arrest." And if our children are blind to the values of our
irreplaceable natural lands, who will be the stewards of our future?
Conroy, the director of Jacksonville State University's EPIC (Environmental
Policy & Information Center) and JSU Field Schools, said, "Northeast Alabama
has the highest concentration of nationally protected natural areas in the
country - Talladega National Forest, Little River Canyon National Preserve,
Dugger Mountain Wilderness, Cheaha Wilderness and Mountain Longleaf Wildlife
Across the state we have an array of biodiversity that can be
seen in public lands like Bankhead National Forest, Tuskegee National Forest,
Conecuh National Forest and in our state parks.
So why aren't more
Alabamians taking their children into these public lands for outdoor recreation
and environmental education opportunities?
According to the results of
JSU Field Schools' survey of public program participants, children simply don't
know that they want to play in the wild places. Kids are waiting on their adults
to prove this need. Once a child experiences hiking through the forest, catching
a fish from a clear lake, climbing a giant bolder, eating a toasted marshmallow
over a campfire or viewing a night sky full of stars, they are
Josh Morrison, the teenage founder of GEEKs in the Woods and the
Weather Channel's Eco-ambassador for Alabama, said in his speech to the National
Forum in Washington, D.C., "What do we want to do outside? Absolutely nothing,
unless you can show us the `YO' factor, unless you can explain how we are linked
to the outdoors and the planet, unless you can make it relate directly to our
life. If you make it personal and global, we will notice! We are primarily
indoor kids. Some people have indoor cats. We are indoor children.
that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy being outside. We don't have to wear an
air tight nature suit with a helmet and an oxygen tank to go out in the woods.
However, some of us don't know this unless you prove it to us É and prove it
again and again!"
On Saturday, National Get Outdoors Day, dozens of
organizations all over this nation will give kids a chance to sample activities
such as mountain biking, kayaking, skateboarding, fishing, a climbing wall,
tents, and other recreational and educational programs.
The North Alabama
National Get Outdoors Day Celebration's Junior Fishing Derby will be from 7
a.m.-noon Saturday in the Talladega National Forest Coleman Lake Recreation Area
near Heflin. It is free for kids ages 3-15 and is hosted by the U.S. Forest
Service and its partners (Jacksonville State University Field Schools, Alabama
Fresh Air Family, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,
Dixie Legends, Coca-Cola, Web Concrete, Piggly Wiggly of Heflin, Winn-Dixie of
Oxford and Foodmax of Oxford.
The contacts are Jeff Gardner or April Hart
Crawley, Shoal Creek Ranger District, 463-2272.
For more information, go
Renee Morrison is coordinator of the JSU
See story at The Gadsden Times' website: www.gadsdentimes.com
for news releases by using the request form at www.jsu.edu/newswire/request.