RTCA Engages Partners in Alaska’s Urban Center

People walking in a park
The Health on Trails team walks around Anchorage’s Tikishla Park to celebrate National ParkRx Day in 2017. NPS Photo

Through a strong partnership with the Anchorage Park Foundation, the Alaska Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistant (RTCA) program extends the reach and resources of the National Park Service into Alaska’s biggest city. The Anchorage Park Foundation fosters neighborhood connections to parks and trails by promoting stewardship and healthy parks. Two collaborations with Anchorage Park Foundation show why local partnership is indispensable for the NPS.

Bringing together landscape architects, schools, and outdoor recreation professionals, the Schools on Trails program helps Anchorage youth gain outdoor learning experiences. Students work with landscape architects from NPS and local organizations to shape outdoor learning projects, resulting in over 20 personalized trail maps for Anchorage schools and two new outdoor learning labs to date, with more labs and maps in the works. With a grant from the U.S. Forest Service Every Kid in a Park program, Schools on Trails additionally brought fourth graders from Title I schools on a boat tour of Portage Glacier, where many saw a glacier up close for the first time. The NPS recognizes that partnerships can help young people get outdoors and gain an early appreciation for public lands.


Kids holding a tree
Students from Nunaka Valley Elementary connecting to nature in their outdoor learning lab with an Adopt-A-Tree lesson. NPS Photo
The Anchorage Park Foundation and NPS share an understanding that public lands are also important assets for community health. RTCA and the Anchorage Park Foundation formed the Health on Trails coalition in 2016 to formalize cross-sector partnerships that promote trails through healthcare, businesses, and worksite wellness programs. The coalition formed new partnerships with local healthcare providers to adopt the national ParkRx America program and promote the health benefits of parks and trails during patient visits. RTCA also made connections with the Forget-me-Not Coalition, which convenes veteran and active military wellness organizations statewide to discuss mental and behavioral health. This relationship is significant for Alaska, as many families are connected to the military and prevalent gaps in mental health care call for innovative approaches to prevention.

Health on Trails and Schools on Trails rely on a strong partner network to succeed. As both of these projects continue to grow in Anchorage, they may serve as models for other RTCA partnerships around Alaska.