AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is drumming up support for what’s being called the “Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.”
A resolution states every child has the right to climb a tree, catch a fish, picnic in a park, hike a trail, ride a bike, splash in the creek or river, discover plants and wildlife, play in the sand and mud, gaze at the night sky, chase a firefly, plant a seed and watch it grow and harvest and eat a fruit or vegetable.
KXAN wanted to know the inspiration behind the bill of rights and what it hopes to accomplish.
Katherine Valias’s child’s curiosity is something she wants to capture.
“You can watch them grow, you can watch them learn, you can even watch some of the things that they’re interested in through outside play,” Valias told KXAN, which is why playtime at the park is an integral part of her parenting.
“I take him to parks all over Austin,” she said.
But a recent study through a grant from the city’s connecting children to nature initiative found areas that are what PARD calls “park deficient.” It means there aren’t as many parks, creating more obstacles and challenges for children to get outside.
The following zip codes in North, East and South Austin were identified in that study as being park deficient:
- 78758, 78753, 78744, 78745, 78702, 78741
“Children getting outside in nature actually helps them to do better in their studies at school and that it improves their health,” PARD’s Cara Welch said, pointing to studies.
Valias doesn’t need studies. She says she sees the proof in her son.
“I notice how cooped up my child gets, how anxious he gets in the house. And the more that I actually have him out and about the calmer he is, the more he’s able to focus at home.”
The city is asking the community to support the Austin Children’s Bill of Rights to improve its changes of receiving a $90,000 grant. The money would be used educate and promote kids getting outside, and allow PARD to partner with a school for a pilot program. Together, they would, “work to help build a curriculum where the children are actually going outside into nature,” Welch said. “We know there are areas where the parks department can do more to kind of help those children.”
PARD’s full plan to better connect children to nature will be presented to the mayor and city council, along with supporting signatures from the community, next month. To add your signature of support, click here.