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.
- Promote active lifestyles through outdoor adventures on the coastal heritage trails.
- Enhance environmental awareness (environmental education) by providing outdoor leadership to youth organizations.
- Connect youth with volunteer opportunities on local trail systems through community outreach.
HTP is working with youth leaders to establish the Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail (MCHT) from Louisiana to Alabama. While increasing public understanding and providing public access to natural resource interpretive sites, waterways, islands, and forests, this Trail will also provide an opportunity to educate community members and visitors about the effects of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill on Gulf Coast communities and resources. It will serve as an educational tool to teach about the interaction between humans and the marine environment as well as offer recreational access to a pedestrian/bikeway stretching across the historic and culturally rich Mississippi Gulf Coast that attracts tourists from all over the world. The MCHT will serve as the backbone of the physical network of cultural, historical and natural places where residents and visitors alike can connect with these places.
The HTP/Youth Trails Partnership will coordinate service learning events and opportunities for youth volunteers along the multi-use pathway. Events will provide exciting opportunities to learn trail maintenance and ecological restoration skills while getting to know trails throughout the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. Volunteers will learn skills to repair damage on all sorts of multi-use paths, restore native plant communities, discuss the broader importance of recreation related to greenways and blueways, see alligators, great blue herons and bald eagles, and have opportunities to hike, play, hang out with teammates, and enjoy the outdoors.
In 2005 Richard Louv published a book titled, Last Child in the Woods. In his book Louv coined the term, “Nature Deficit Disorder” and used it to describe the growing divide between children and nature. Last Child in the Woods raised awareness about the problems associated with too much time spent indoors, and people around the country took notice. They began creating projects and initiatives aimed at re-connecting children with nature. In July 2011, a group of youth representing Mississippi and Alabama, sponsored by HTP, attended an Outdoor Nation Summit that was both revolutionary and inspiring. These same youth returned to host a Jr. Trails Partnership Planning Retreat in Biloxi in March 2012 that would map out the next steps of getting more youth of Mississippi and Alabama involved with the effort. At this retreat, the vision of hosting a coast wide Youth Trails Stewardship Summit emerged with the intention of bringing youth from diverse backgrounds together to talk about how trails can help them connect to the great outdoors and to one another.