Starting in late June, Madras families will have new resources to encourage children to learn and explore outdoors through the launch of the Kids in Parks program.
Two trails have been designated as TRACK trails in Madras, including the M Hill Trail and the Willow Creek Trail, adding to the three TRACK trails that opened in Prineville, earlier this month.
Now, when kids and families visit those places, there will be options for self-guided activities, which encourage children to take a closer look at nature and learn about the plants and animals that live there. Families can then track their adventures online at the Kids in Parks website (www.kidsinparks.com) to receive free prizes in the mail.
The TRACK trails are part of a national network that spans 10 states across the country. The Central Oregon TRACK trails are the first to be established in Oregon. The Children's Forest of Central Oregon is spearheading the project, with support from many community partners, including the city of Madras.
The project was primarily funded by a grant from the Central Oregon Health Council to support cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention in youth.
Later this summer, the program will expand to include TRACK Rx, where local health care providers can prescribe time outdoors to their patients, using the Kids in Parks program.
"We're hopeful that health care providers can help to motivate children to be more active and experience all of the benefits that being outdoors provides," said Katie Chipko, executive director for the Children's Forest of Central Oregon. "The Kids in Parks program provides something fun and accessible for families to do together, and is something that health care providers can easily refer their patients to participate in."
There will be a launch event at the Jefferson County Youth Fishing Pond from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 22. The free family event will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the M Hill TRACK trail, "Walk with a Doc," along the trail, fun kids' activities, plus drawings for outdoor prizes.
The Children's Forest of Central Oregon will offer additional family programs throughout the summer to raise awareness with local families about the TRACK trails.
Families that want to participate in the program can visit www.kidsinparks.com to get information about the TRACK trails and directions to each location. Activity brochures can be picked up at each TRACK trail location, at the newly installed kiosks, starting on June 22.
"Our hope is that this becomes a community resource that families can use for years to come to build healthy habits with their children and to develop a deeper appreciation of the outdoors," Chipko said.
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