Grant Awarded

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Date: May 3, 2010
Contact: Julie Galonska, 715-483-2270

National Park Service Announces Grant Award for

"In a New Light: Connecting At-Risk Teens to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through Nature Photography"

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced that it is the recipient of a 2010 America’s Best Idea grant from the National Park Foundation for "In a New Light: Connecting At-Risk Teens to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through Nature Photography," an innovative partnership project between the Riverway, Northwest Passage, and local arts and educational organizations.

The project will immerse at-risk teens in the beauty of the Riverway as they embark on a photographic journey of discovery, hope, and healing. Professional nature photographers will empower each participant to tap into their own unique vision, and a production company will enable the teens to document their artistic and emotional journeys. 

“Experiencing a place as beautiful and wild as the Riverway can be therapeutic for anyone,” says Ben Thwaits, the Northwest Passage teacher who serves as the project leader. “However, creating good photos requires that the kids learn to truly open themselves to nature so they can feel and express its subtle beauty. It’s a process that can be profoundly healing for kids who need it the most.”   

“Photography is teaching me to see things I never saw before,” says one 15-year-old participant. “There is amazing life all around us, and all you have to do is look.” 

Riverway Superintendent Chris Stein remarked, “This project speaks to tremendous power of parks to touch people in profound ways. We know that the people who see these photos will be moved by the images. In the tradition of artists who have inspired preservation of our country’s wild and scenic places, the work of these young adults will be a way for others to connect to and care about this place.”

The project will culminate in a travelling photo exhibit, video chronicle, website, and blog that will engage wide audiences in an inspiring story of troubled youth who overcame long odds to capture the spirit not just of the Riverway, but also of themselves and their relationships with the park, on film. The exhibit will open at the St. Croix River Visitor Center in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, on September 25, 2010. After a month-long showing, it will travel to Madison, Wausau, Cable, and Spooner. An online blog will be launched along with the kick-off event, and a project website will be created to complement the travelling exhibit.

Other project partners include: Northern Lights Camera Club, Black Iris Gallery and Custom Framing, Black Ice Outdoor Productions, Cable Natural History Museum, UW--Marathon County, and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

The project is part of the National Park Foundation’s (NPF) America’s Best Idea grants, a nationwide program currently underway in 33 national parks which seeks to connect youth and other underserved audiences to parks. Inspired by the epic Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, the NPF, in partnership with Unilever, has awarded grants totaling roughly half a million dollars. Additional support for the America’s Best Idea grants is generously given by The Ahmanson Foundation and other donors to the National Park Foundation.

With locations in Frederic, Webster, and Spooner, Northwest Passage offers comprehensive residential mental health services to youth, with the aim of restoring dignity, emotional wholeness, and a renewed sense of self-worth. Northwest Passage II, the Spooner facility participating in this project, specializes in nature-based experiential programming for boys ages 12-17.    

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a unit of the National Park System, was established by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. It is one of a group of eight rivers in the country that first received this recognition. For 255 miles, the St. Croix River and its tributary, the Namekagon, flow through some of the most scenic and least developed country in the Upper Midwest.

For additional information on the Riverway, call (715) 483-2274.

You are the part-owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured landscapes, ecosystems, and historical sites -- all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to help connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow. Join us – This is Your Land.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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St. Croix Falls, WI 54024


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