Keeping our local, state and national parks clean is an effort that involves everyone, from visitors to volunteers. Instilling the desire to maintain clean parks is something that should ideally start at a young age. If you are looking for great ways to get youth involved in keeping our parks clean, here are a few programs you might want to consider implementing in your community and schools.
Look Into Adopting a Park
Contact park rangers or supervisors in your area to learn more about how your youth group or family can adopt a park. Once you have found a park to adopt, plan to visit the park on a regular schedule to assist with keeping the park clean and well-maintained. Under the supervision of the park ranger or supervisor, you can help to remove invasive species, paint and spread mulch along with helping to pick up litter.
Participate in the Leave No Trace Program
The Leave No Trace program is a set of ethics that are designed to help youth learn how to interact with nature in a thoughtful and sustainable manner. Activities include hiking and camping in appropriate areas, planning ahead to minimize waste and taking the necessary precautions to not disturb plants and animals.
Host a Trash Pickup Competition
Holding a litter competition is a great way to clean up the parks while having fun. Perfect for families, schools, church groups, and other youth groups, a little competition simply involves competing to see which team can fill the most bags. Meet at a schoolyard, park or other outdoor space and divide into teams. In addition to awarding the team that collects the most trash, you might consider giving prizes for special categories such as the person who found the most unusual item or the team that showed up with the most flair or enthusiasm.
Create an Ad Campaign
In addition to being directly involved with picking up trash, you can also actively work toward helping to encourage others to keep their parks clean. Ask your youth group or children to brainstorm ways to help promote their favorite park and then work toward creating a poster campaign, a newspaper announcement, a radio announcement or a podcast. They might even want to see if their school will allow them to make an intercom announcement or speak in classes or community events.
Sponsor a Fundraising Event
Sponsoring a fundraising event is a great way to help national parks purchase the supplies they need to stay clean, such as buying enough bear-resistant trash cans and recycling bins to suit the needs of the park. Some fun fundraising ideas to consider include a car wash, a raffle, a park-themed bingo night, a craft fair, a dance or a board game tournament.
Of course, the best way to get youth involved in caring for their parks is to teach them to love and cherish them, to begin with. Encourage them to spend time outside, go for hikes, go camping and play games in our local, state and national parks. At BearSaver, we are proud to be able to work side-by-side with our parks in keeping them clean and litter-free. We hope you will join us in this worthwhile endeavor.