June 5, 2013

Jr. Trails Partnership Planning Retreat

History & Overview
Heritage Trails Partnership committed to engaging the youth of Mississippi in the development of a safe, help coast-wide trails network that could include both land and water based trails.

In 2009, for sale an attempt was made at forming a Junior Trails Advisory Board that might lead the effort in coordinating youth oriented organizations towards the overall effort of 1) getting kids active in the great outdoors towards fighting the childhood obesity epidemic in Mississippi and 2) engaging young people in the planning, development and building of the coast-wide trail network.

Two successful Junior Trails projects were accomplished in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Mississippi, including 2010 Pedometer Project and the 2010 Bridge to Bridge Walk. The Boys & Girls Club was also instrumental in the initial draft of a Junior Trails Partnership Logo.

In 2010, upon the request of HTP, the National Park Service- Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) began to assist with engaging young leaders through the nationwide initiative, Outdoor Nation (ON). ON focuses on getting young leaders (16yrs to 28yrs) to influence their peers to get outside and physically active.

In July 2010, RTCA Staff recruited 12 young leaders to attend the Outdoor Nation Summit on behalf of the HTP. One of the young leaders, Valerie Kleinschmidt, returned home motivated to keep the momentum going and applied for an Outdoor Nation Grant in order to host a local “Junior Trails Partnership Planning Retreat” where young people would gather to develop a vision and goals for a Junior Trails Partnership, as well as, map out next steps towards engaging more youth in trail development and advocacy for best management practices for all types of trails.

Valerie was successful at receiving the grant and the following are notes from the Junior Trails Partnership Planning Retreat.  It was a blast….. so read on!!

The Retreat took place at Camp Wilkes in Biloxi over the weekend of March 31, 2012. During the two busy days of fun meetings, pontoon boat ride to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, camp fire talks and hikes, the group drafted a vision, goals and next steps for creating the Jr. Trails Partnership.  And now, with the Youth Trails Stewardship Summit, the Jr. Trails Partnership takes a step forward to getting more kids connected by all types of trails.

 JTP Vision
Increased awareness of coastal trails through the efforts of an inspired, adventure focused youth who advocate for outdoor recreation, world class trail development, active living, environmental sustainability and appreciation of our precious natural resources, through greenway and blueway development and the connectivity of towns and schools.

JTP Goals
1) Promote active lifestyles through outdoor adventures on the coastal heritage trails.
2) Enhance environmental awareness (environmental education) by providing outdoor leadership to youth organizations.
3) Connect youth with volunteer opportunities on local trail systems through community outreach.

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