Through a partnership between the Blue Ridge Foundation’s Kids in Parks Program, University of Florida, USDA Forest Service and City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, “something of the marvelous” has been brought to Gainesville in the form of Track Trails, a network of family-friendly outdoor adventures that engage children with nature and promote healing and wellness.
Gainesville is well known for its natural beauty and the abundance of state parks, preserves, conservation areas and public gardens that cultivate the outdoor explorer in locals and visitors alike. Yet in our increasingly digital culture, more and more children are choosing their favorite video game or binging the latest Netflix hit over playing outdoors. Research shows that spending time outdoors and in the presence of nature has countless benefits for personal wellness across the lifespan, from physical and mental health to emotional and behavioral wellbeing. But how can children foster a deeper connection to their natural environment in our progressively more “plugged-in” world?
That’s where the Track Trails program, with various trails and adventures in states across the country, comes in. Gainesville is now home to the first and only trails in the state of Florida. Self-guided trails have been constructed at three different community parks: Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park, Loblolly Woods Nature Park and Morningside Nature Center, with two additional trails currently in the works.
These Track Trails offer interactive outdoor adventures and activities, such as the “Nature’s Hide and Seek” scavenger hunt at Hogtown or the “Birds of Gainesville” bird spotting activity at Loblolly, which can be accessed through brochures available at each site or the e-Adventures section of the Kids in Parks website. In addition, children and families can track their adventures and even earn prizes by logging their completed explorations on the Kids in Parks online portal.
3 Adventures Nearby (2 Additional Trails Coming Soon!):
* Morningside Nature Center
* Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park
* Loblolly Woods Nature Park