City of Madison joins initiative to connect kids to nature

The City of Madison joined six other U.S. cities in an initiative titled Cities Connect Children to Nature, which aims to improve kids' access to natural settings. 

Image By: Courtney Kessler and Courtney Kessler

The City of Madison announced Wednesday it has joined an initiative titled Cities Connect Children to Nature that aims to increase kids’ equal access to nature to develop important skills and better their lives.

Madison Parks will partner with Public Health Madison & Dane County and other community members to build a plan to promote spending time in natural settings, according to the release.

“Madison has a wealth of urban nature, but not all Madison kids get a chance to enjoy it,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in the release. “This initiative will move us in the right direction.”

The seven-month initiative process will focus on working with youth leaders, as well as organizations dedicated to youth and families of color. Phases will include taking stock, engaging for action and determining a citywide model.

“Madison Parks is proud to host this important community discussion on how to better our children’s lives through connecting them to nature,” Superintendent of Madison Parks Eric Knepp said in the release.

The City of Madison Parks Division owns 247 parks around the area, as well as four golf courses, several dog parks and numerous sports facilities.

Director of Policy, Planning and Evaluation Division for Public Health Madison & Dane County Mary Michaud noted spending even a small amount of time outside has a variety of benefits for children.

“Nature captures children's curiosity,” Michaud said in the release. “Active play in nature helps kids restore their ability to focus, not to mention sleep. Nature play also teaches children how to negotiate all kinds of risk in very safe ways.”

Recent research also suggests communities in which people spend more time in nature report stronger social ties and reduced crime rates, according to The Huffington Post.

Madison is one of seven U.S. cities to join the initiative, including Austin, Texas; Providence, R.I.; San Francisco, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; Louisville, Ky.; and Grand Rapids, Mich.

To kick off the initiative, Warner Park Community Center will host an event March 5 for youth and organizational leaders to assess the initiative’s priorities, opportunities and barriers.

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