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National Partners

Partnership with The ymca

Over the last five years, the YMCA has made a concerted effort to get outside of our four walls and into the communities where people are living, working, learning and playing," says Katie Adamson, the YMCA's National Director of Health Programs. "With that in mind, there could be few better partners for us than the National Park Service." As the YMCA was hoping to get its members active outdoors, the National Park Service (NPS) -- galvanized by the obesity crisis threatening our nation's health -- was seeking community partners to introduce a new generation of Americans to the parks. Starting with a collaboration between the YMCA and National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, the relationship has blossomed.

Today, the NPS is providing technical assistance to a half-dozen YMCAs across the country, on projects ranging from South Carolina's Upper Pee Dee Greenways, Trails and Blueways to Bath Trails in Maine. Overall, healthy recreation has become a major NPS focus, with over 60 RTCA current projects highlighting community wellness. This spring, the YMCA placed "Member News" posters in every Y across the country, promoting national parks and national trails to their 21 million members. They distributed a brochure about National Parks Week as part of their Healthy Kids Day celebration in April, and intensified online connections with the NPS. (Now, when you search for your local Y, you will also find an icon to help discover a national park or trail near you.)

Partnership Examples

NPS RTCA and YMCA have partnered to assist a variety of healthy recreation projects. Here is a story from Asheville, NC:

Asheville, NC Walking Expert Mark Fenton leads a community assessment.
Asheville, North Carolina: Walking Expert Mark Fenton (blue vest) leads a Community Assessment

With its beautiful mountain scenery and thriving arts community, Asheville, North Carolina is often called one of the best places in the country to live.  But there was an obstacle holding the community back from its goal of being the healthiest community in the state.  "People here are eager to get walking, get healthier physically, and help the environment," says NPS staffer Dawn Godwin.  "But it's harder than we'd like for people to walk or ride a bike in Asheville."  The NPS partnered with the YMCA of Western North Carolina to create Activate Asheville, an umbrella group working with key stakeholders in the area, including elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce, local hospitals, media outlets, schools, and more.
The project launched in November with a three-day summit featuring a community walk, breakfast with the mayor, and other events drawing over 170 people.  The goal, says Godwin, "is to focus on making Asheville more walkable and bikeable through policy and infrastructure change."  As an example, the group plans to collaborate with architects and engineers building two new schools in the county to develop trails where kids can walk to and around the school, and to design a vehicular pick-up/drop-off area that eases congestion and encourages walking.

For more information about the YMCA, visit their website.

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