Cedar River Trail in Renton will be the first in the state to join the TRACK program, which encourages kids to explore local trails and get outdoors.
On May 4, Renton will host a ribbon cutting honoring the opening of the TRACK program, which is a network of trails hosted on the Kids in Parks website that offers prizes for kids who track their time on these self-guided adventures. Cedar River Trail stretches nearly 16 miles from Lake Washington in Renton to Landsburg Park in Hobart.
TRACK trails from Kids in Parks began in 2008 in North Carolina and was created by Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Service and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. The original goal was to create a network of trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway to link the health of children and the health of parks.
The Kids in Parks program goal is to “get kids unplugged and physically active,” but it is also meant to help parks.
“Parks benefit when people use them,” according to the Kids in Parks website. “Finding ways to create stronger connections between children and our parks cultivates current and future stewards who understand the value and appeal of our public lands.”
When Cailín Hunsaker started working as Renton’s parks and trails director, she brought with her the TRACK trail idea, which had success at a park she worked at in California. She said the Kids in Parks program and the local park staff are able to track registrations and summaries of attendance at TRACK trails.
This is one of the first expansions of outdoor recreation education opportunities to complement what’s already happening at the Renton Community Center, Hunsaker said.
“This is an opportunity for kids to get outside and be active, and receive prizes in the process,” Hunsaker said. “But also get excited about getting out again and doing other hikes, learning about nature and growing their knowledge of the outdoors.”
The city’s participation in the TRACK program includes the creation and design of a kiosk, four brochures, a park sticker and adding the trail to kidsinparks.com.
Each brochure represents the four adventures available for the Cedar River Trail: “Salmon of the Pacific,” “Animal Athletes,” “Nature’s Hide and Seek” and “The Need for Trees.” A dog named Track and a dragonfly named Kip lead the way on these brochures. The trails are all given an “easy” difficulty rating and span three-quarters of a mile, according to Kids in Parks.
Hunsaker said the brochures are customized from the Kids in Parks standard to match what folks might see in the area. People can even download a brochure to use in their own backyards.
The adventures offer games and activities for little hikers to enjoy on the trail, including exercising like animals with different running, stretching and exercising activities, each offering facts on a critter. “Ant strength training” asks hikers to test their push-up skills, and explains how ants can lift objects heavier than their body weight.
The tree brochure offers information on the types of trees on the trail and explains the signs of beaver prevention, tree splitting and tent caterpillars. The brochure also explains the importance of trees and the science behind how a tree releases oxygen.
Children earn a sticker representing each trail they register to explore. Once they’ve completed an adventure, Kids in Parks mails them prizes. The child can describe the adventure on the Kids in Parks website and receive virtual medals.
The program offers a total of six prizes for additional trail adventures completed. One trail gets them a nature journal, and 12 trails means a walking stick medallion. There’s a also a patch, sack, bandana and magnifying glass.
Total costs for the city to join were $7,900, with an additional $400 annually to cover prizes and maintenance, and the cost to produce extra brochures as needed.
Renton received a Youth and Amateur Sports Grant Agreement from King County for $5,000, and the city Parks and Trails department paid $2,900 for the program, according to finance committee documents from October 2017, when it was first brought to council.
The parks staff who maintain the Cedar River Trail Park will be responsible for cleaning and upkeep of the kiosk, Hunsaker said.
The program is not just for kids, but an opportunity for families to take self-guided trips and have fun together. “It’s another form of getting together and enjoying the outdoors,” she said.
Check it out
The kickoff begins at 10 a.m. May 4 at the Cedar River Trail Park, 1060 Nishiwaki Lane, Renton. Registration for the program is free and available at kidsinparks.com.