By Mary Jaeger-Gale
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.
It’s good to have a special day to take the time to honor our grandparents for their contributions to our lives and to give grandparents an opportunity to show their love for their children’s children. But, it’s even better when we make it a habit of spending quality time together whenever we can.
There’s a wonderful opportunity that started in North Carolina that’s a great activity for every generation. Kids in Parks is a program that provides a network of trails, called TRACK Trails, designed to get kids and families unplugged, outdoors and active in our parks and public lands. Each TRACK Trail has a series of brochure-led adventures that turn an ordinary walk in the woods into a fun-filled, discovery-packed adventure. Kids that hike TRACK Trails can register their adventures through the program’s website (kidsinparks.com) and earn prizes designed to make their next outdoor adventure more fun and meaningful. From a nature journal and trail stickers, to a patch, bandana, backpack, magnifying lens and more… the program provides incentives designed to generate excitement about spending time outdoors, bonding, moving and staying healthy. These kinds of activities arouse our kid’s curiosity and help to encourage life-long advocacy for outdoor recreation.
Originally, the program was designed to get kids and families to think about the trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway as resources for their health. But, it quickly became apparent that the brochures that were created by Kids in Parks for use on the Parkway trails were applicable to a wide variety of public lands; and in an effort to link communities along the Parkway together, they began dedicating trails in state parks, forest service areas, municipal parks and other locations along the Parkway corridor.
Chimney Rock Park staff just happened to be in the right place at the right time and suggested that the Park become a site for a TRACK trail. In June 2010, Grady the Groundhog, the Park’s animal ambassador, joined KIP and TRACK, the Kids in Park’s mascots, to become the second program in the network. Today, the program has expanded to include 143 TRACK Trails in eight states and Washington, D.C and is still growing.
Chimney Rock’s TRACK trail adventures were designed to be used on any of the trails, but kids, their parents and grandparents would probably enjoy the shorter, more moderate Great Woodland Adventure trail the most. You’ll find the new kiosk with all the brochures right next to Grady the Groundhog’s Animal Discovery Den.
The Park offers special deals for special days. In honor of Grandparent’s Day, youth can get in free with a paying adult the weekend of Sept. 10 and 11. Just go to ChimneyRockPark.com, download the coupon and present it to the folks at the Ticket Plaza for your free tickets.
Check out our local TRACK trail, then go to kidsinparks.com to find a list of all the TRACK trail adventures. Get the bug to get unplugged and get outdoors.
The TRACK Trail program is part of the larger Kids in Parks Initiative sponsored by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.
Mary Jaeger-Gale is General Manager, Chimney Rock Management LLC, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.