Program: TRACK Trails
Based in: Ashville, North Carolina
Participating Agency(s): Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation; NPS Blue Ridgeway; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Unique Feature(s): Website targets children, who can track progress and receive toy incentives; website includes resources for hiking and nutrition; explicitly identifies reciprocal relationship between healthy parks and kids
Contact: email@example.com - Jason Urroz, Director of Kids in Parks
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program provides a national network of trails, called TRACK Trails, designed to get kids and families engaged in outdoor recreation to improve their health through the increased use of our parks and public lands. Each TRACK Trail features a series of self-guided, brochure-led adventures. This allows kids to visit the same trail numerous times to complete a different activity, or for a family to visit a trail and use different brochures based on their age ranges or areas of interests. After their adventures, kids can register their outings through the program’s website, www.kidsinparks.com, to earn prizes designed to make their next outdoor adventure more fun and meaningful; and, program assessment is built-in to the delivery of the incentives.
There are currently more than 130 TRACK Trail locations in seven states (NC, VA, SC, WV, MD, SD, CA), and Washington, D.C., and in partnership with various types of land management agencies. This creates a network of opportunities for kids and families to get actively engaged in our parks and public lands, including trails in 25 National Parks, 50 state parks, 40 city/county parks, among other locations. The program also uses various types of trails (hiking, biking, geocaching, paddling, disc golf, and citizen science) to engage kids and families with varying age ranges and recreational interests.
The program has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a program pediatricians can prescribe to kids as part of the Park Rx movement, awarded a “Let’s Move! Champions of Change Award” from the White House, recognized as a practice-tested intervention by the Center for Training and Research Translation (funded by the CDC), and earned the “Outstanding Visitor Engagement Award” from the Association for Partners of Public Lands.
To date, more than 2,500 kids have registered 5,500+ TRACK Trail adventures on the website. Through on-site observational studies and data extrapolations, the program estimates that more than 180,000 kids have hiked 160,000 miles on TRACK Trails, spending nearly 80,000 hours outdoors and burning approximately 25,000,000 calories. However, the effects go beyond the individual participants. Since the program’s average group size for each excursion is 3.39 people, those numbers can be multiplied to obtain the overall health outcomes for family units.
Additionally, the program can calculate that 15 percent of kids were first-time hikers, 55 percent visited the park specifically to hike the TRACK Trail, and 52 percent were first-time visitors to that park. The program also boasts a 53 percent return rate, with 83 percent of those returnees having registered more than one TRACK Trail location. Clearly, the program’s network of trails that cross agency boundaries, in conjunction with their incentive system, are having an impact on the health of kids and families, and our parks and public lands.
Now, Kids in Parks is working with doctors, hospital systems, and other health-care providers to promote and prescribe TRACK Trails and outdoor recreation to young patients to combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Kids in Parks has developed a group of materials to introduce the program to kids and families through their health-care providers. These materials include:
- a miniature trailhead display for the provider’s lobby
- a TRACK Rx brochure that kids can use to create an adventure anywhere
- a poster displaying the regional network of TRACK Trail locations
- a TRACK Rx prescription pad that allows health-care providers to formally prescribe TRACK Trails and other outdoor recreation activities to patients.
Each TRACK Rx prescription pad has a serial number associated with a particular doctor and patient. This allows the patient to register the fulfillment of their prescription through the website to earn a prize, and Kids in Parks the ability to monitor the success of the program and provide immediate feedback to the doctor / health-care provider.