The Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation department and Jefferson Memorial Forest has been selected to receive a $30,000 play space grant from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and The Walt Disney Company. This investment supports NRPA and Disney’s combined goal of providing one million kids and families with greater access to play.
Part of the national Meet Me at the Park healthy living program, park and recreation agencies across the country were invited to share their best ideas on increasing access to play spaces for children and families in their communities. Agencies with the most innovative and impactful project ideas were chosen to receive grants ranging from $10,000–50,000 to build their projects.
Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation and Jefferson Memorial Forest will use the grant funding to create a mobile nature play component to its award-winning Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors (Louisville ECHO) initiative.
Louisville ECHO is holistic initiative designed to increase equitable access to nature through complementary activities for youth including school field trips to nature for local fourth-grade students; out-of-school time (OST) outdoor recreational opportunities for youth from partners organizations; free community events such as the annual “Canoemobile” that engage children; and a job-training/mentor development component to create “green-facing” career opportunities for youth.
The mobile nature play unit, deemed the “ECHO Mobile” will include a modified box truck and enclosed trailer that will allow staff and community volunteers to bring the Louisville ECHO initiative further out into the community with activities and programs.
The ECHO mobile will be geared towards children age 3 to 11 and in addition to supporting recreation based-activities such as biking, archery and fishing, it is intended children to express themselves creatively through free-play with natural materials at a local park within urban neighborhoods.
“For nearly a decade, Louisville ECHO has provided positive experiences to thousands of children who don’t have ready access to nature,” said Seve Ghose, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Thanks to NRPA and The Walt Disney Company, this will ensure that this program continues to grow and extend its impact further across Louisville.”
“NRPA is proud to collaborate with The Walt Disney Company to help more children and families experience the benefits of play,” said Kellie May, NRPA director of health and wellness. “By increasing access to play spaces, this program will also provide new activities that support healthy lifestyles in local communities.”
The Meet Me at the Park program includes an Earth Month campaign as well, where funding is awarded for local park improvement projects that connect kids to nature, inspire healthy living and provide access to sports. The campaign celebrates Earth Month and the importance of local parks.
This grant is supported local through generous cash and in-kind donations from Wilderness Louisville, Inc., the Louisville Parks Foundation, Bike Sense Louisville, and YouthBuild Louisville. Metro Parks & Recreation is actively seeking additional sponsorships.