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Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov [TH]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — April 2, 2009

Texas State Parks, TPWD Programs Show "Life’s Better Outside"

Nature-based fun abounds for Texas families, from diverse and outstanding state parks to programs and workshops that teach fishing, camping, paddling and much more. But alongside this good news, a growing body of books and studies reveals a serious issue: today’s kids are losing touch with nature and that’s taking a toll.

In 2006, Richard Louv’s groundbreaking book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder sent a wake-up call to parents, educators, the health community and others. The book carries a message of hope, but it also reviews a growing body of research that links the nature-deficit problem to issues like childhood obesity, educational and developmental challenges and other ills.

Louv’s book spawned the nationwide Children and Nature Network, bringing politicians, pediatricians, educators, architects, environmentalists, wildlife scientists and others into an expanding circle of supporters.

In the Lone Star State, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has launched an outreach effort called Life’s Better Outside® to motivate urban parents to spend time with their children outdoors in nature. The department offers a variety of programs in Texas designed to make this fun and easy.

No experience is necessary for Texas Outdoor Family weekend workshops, which teach parents and kids to pitch tents, cook over campfires and reconnect with nature. This spring and summer, various parks across the state are hosting workshops. In state parks, these cost $55 for a family of up to six people, and that fee covers all necessary equipment and instruction, everything except food and bedding.

Also this spring and summer, TPWD is expanding the Free Fishing in State Parks program. This waives fishing license requirements within more than 50 state parks. It also offers dozens of scheduled events where participants can learn to fish with equipment and instruction provided.

Wildlife viewing and paddling trails offer two other great ways for families to get back to nature. Since 2006, the TPWD has been partnering with cities, counties, river authorities and other partners to create Texas Paddling Trails. These provide well-mapped accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for kayakers and canoeists at all levels of experience. There are currently seven coastal paddling trails and eight inland paddling trails, with several communities in the process of applying to create new trails.

Texas was the first state in the nation to create birding and wildlife viewing trails for motorists with maps and road signs to mark trail sites. The resulting network of Great Texas Wildlife Trails promotes sustainable economic development and builds public support for wildlife conservation, with several great trails crisscrossing across the state.

Families can find all this and more on the TPWD Web site, or see lifesbetteroutside.org for a simple one-stop menu of nature options. Anyone can also pick up a Texas State Park Guide booklet at any state park or at some local tourism bureaus. Campers can make state park reservations online, or by phoning (512) 389-8900.

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