A Healthy State Park

Recently I was thinking about the good old days, when I was a kid. Days when I would go outside and play until dark, ride bikes and play in the woods, take camping trips and Coleman stoves, walk the creek, climb trees, hike trails and count the stars. Times have changed and today’s kids go fishing on their Wii or Xbox. They even ride bikes on video games in the comfort of their living room.

A recent study by the American Heart Association indicates that while 60 percent of teenagers spend an average of 20 hours per week in front of television and computer screens, a third spend closer to 40 hours per week and about seven percent are exposed to more than 50 hours of screen time per week.

This got my attention. Children are not as healthy as they used to be. Childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes are at all-time highs and the challenge to get children outside seems harder to do.

It’s time to get healthy and think about a healthy state park. Healthy state parks are forests with great trees and wildflowers and streams, rivers and lakes that have just the right amounts of oxygen and aquatic life. Healthy parks have clean air and clean facilities, and most importantly, they’re filled with people of all ages enjoying the park. On a good day, you can hear the laughter of a child and the deafening sounds of quiet reflection by a couple sitting near the lake. A park is most healthy when it’s used by our guests.

In 2011 we want healthy parks, and S.C. State Parks wants to be part of the solution to getting children back outside.

This year, plan to make state parks an integral part of your exercise program. Take a walk on a nature trail or bring a child to experience the outdoors and listen to the number of birds you hear. Try camping and walk around the campground circle. Ride your bike or paddle a canoe. The main thing is to get outside and off of the sofa. Help us make state parks healthy this year.

Getting outside has great benefits such as fresh air and exercise, but it can also help you develop a healthy lifestyle that will last a lifetime. Hiking, camping and other state park activities can make a big difference in children’s lives. Getting outside not only benefits personal fitness, but it also instills an appreciation of nature and the learning of activities that can be utilized for a lifetime.

Arthur Carhart, a conservationist and early U.S. Forest Service leader, said, “Perhaps the rebuilding of the body and spirit is the greatest service derivable from our forests.” I think your state parks are places to do just that and I can think of no better place for children and families to go to get healthy in 2011. What’s your prescription for a healthier year? Come out and play!

See you in the parks!

Phil