More than 14,000 kids who might not otherwise have opportunities to explore parks, forests and other outdoor places in Washington soon will be able to thanks to about $1.3 million in funding, which Gov. Jay Inslee announced today.

Awarded by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the No Child Left Inside grants focus on programs that provide outdoor education and recreation to underserved youth. This year’s No Child Left Inside grants will help kids spend a total of more than 1 million hours outside, doing everything from hiking to kayaking and rock climbing.

“This is about investing in our kids and making sure they have equal access to the outdoors,” Inslee said. “We know that kids who spend time outdoors do better in school, are less stressed and get more exercise and social interaction. Some of my best childhood memories happened outdoors, and this funding is a big part of making sure these opportunities–to learn, grow and discover the world around us–are open to everyone.”

Grant recipients will be matching the state funding and are contributing nearly $3 million in donations, equipment, labor, additional grants and other resources.

Giving rural Pierce County youth access to the outdoors

The Pierce Outdoor LIFE (Leadership Instruction & Field Experiences) Program is a collaborative project led by Pierce County Parks, which will use this grant to provide court-associated youth in rural Pierce County access to nature and outdoor recreation experiences. Teens, ages 13-17 will participate in six, 7-hour sessions once a week throughout the program. Sessions will focus on environmental education, leadership, hands-on stewardship service projects and activities such as rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, etc. Five sessions will occur in a regional park in the youth's local community, with one week at a state-park destination. The county will contribute $87,260 in in-kind services.

The program is designed in order to provide teens with the ability to develop life skills and positive pro-social relationships. The program includes equal amounts of nature-based experiential learning and leadership development, hands-on natural stewardship service projects with embedded environmental education lessons; and practice/participation in outdoor adventure activities (rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, hiking and many other forms of recreation).

Five weeks occur in a regional park in the youth's local community, with one week an adventure trip to a state-park destination. Youth will be introduced to many activities and providers who can help them continue to pursue outdoor recreation beyond the term of the program. This program was initialized in 2018 to great success, and partners Washington State University-Cooperative Extension and Pierce County Juvenile Court will be returning.

Funding for the No Child Left Inside grant program comes from the state general fund and was one of a dozen recommendations of the 2014 Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation. The task force was charged with finding ways to increase participation in outdoor recreation, which has significant social, economic and health benefits to the children that the program targets.

More information about No Child Left Inside is available online.