National Public Lands Day: A Great Opportunity to Connect Kids and Nature


Op-Ed by Loretta E. Pineda, Executive Director, Environmental Learning for Kids

“Now I know I can do whatever I put my mind to…”

This powerful expression of self-confidence came from a Montbello teenager during her last day of a backpacking adventure in the Colorado mountains hosted by Environmental Learning for Kids and Big City Mountaineers.

Spending time outdoors can have an incredibly positive impact on our children’s health—both mentally and physically. Being outside in nature can build kids’ self-esteem and reduce anxiety which in turn can help them increase their academic performance and become involved in their neighborhoods and communities.

Public lands of all shapes and sizes from national parks and mountain trails, to urban bike paths and playgrounds, provide many different opportunities to get our kids outside. Kids in our area can take in the great outdoors in big natural spaces such as Rocky Mountain National Park or Staunton State Park. But they can also connect with nature in urban areas such as City Park, Parkfield Lake Park, South Platte River Trail, the High Line Canal Trail and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

These outdoor spaces do so much for our children and we need to take care of them in return.

September 30th marks the 24th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands, hosted each year by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and sponsored by Toyota, along with seven federal land management agencies and state and local partners.

This day of service is a chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with public lands. Last year, more than 200,000 people joined volunteer efforts on public lands contributing more than $18 million in in-kind service.

On Saturday, volunteers from all over our state will join thousands more from coast to coast, enjoying and taking care of the outdoor places that they love. People will be planting trees in the Westwood neighborhood in Denver, scooping up after Fido and other four-legged friends in parks throughout Jefferson County, and cleaning up litter in Rocky Mountain National Park. They will be restoring trails in Bear Creek Canyon, Lost Creek Wilderness, and Roxborough State Park. Others will be cleaning up trash along the Colorado River and installing new signs along trails in McInnis Canyon. There are over 35 of these events taking place across the state.

So let’s all get outside on Saturday. Pick up some trash. Tidy up a trail. Plant a tree. It’s a great opportunity to take care of the public lands that give back so much to us.

But most importantly, share this day of service with a child so they can begin to build a life-long connection with the public lands around them – no matter where they live.


For more information about NPLD events near you, please visit