Tuesday, June 7, 2016

U.S. Department of the Interior Selects Richmond as Priority City to Connect Youth to the Great Outdoors


As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Mayor Dwight Jones joined Craig Dorsett, Advisor to the Assistant Secretary, Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, and Tim Joyce, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Richmond today to announce that Richmond has been selected as one of the 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

The initiative, funded through a $5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of Greater Richmond to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“Engaging people of all ages, especially youth, in enjoying and caring for parks and public lands builds a sense of stewardship and fosters deep connections to nature that will last a lifetime,” said Secretary Sally Jewell. “Richmond is blessed with amazing public parks and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership with financial support from the American Express Foundation and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, stewards and leaders, while helping young people connect to the public lands in their community.”

“The City of Richmond is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of Interior for this important initiative to engage youth with the outdoors,” said Mayor Dwight. C. Jones. “Our city was previously named ‘Best Town Ever’ by Outside Magazine. We are also one of only three U.S. cities ranked on the Global Sports City Index by SportCal. It’s a natural for us to be one of the 50 cities to kick off this active volunteer program under First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. This provides another opportunity for us to showcase all that Richmond has to offer in our urban environment with amazing and varied outdoor access; and to engage young people while doing so.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Tim Joyce, CEO & President, YMCA of Greater Richmond.  “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for children and families to have fun, deepen connections to the city’s natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks.”

The Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Richmond joins 26 cities announced in 2015. The remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit: www.doi.gov/youth.

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the “Every Kid in A Park” program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. These complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for this year’s centennial of the National Park System.