Forum encourages outdoor activities

Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien will meet with local stakeholders Tuesday

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If you go

What: Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien's forum on connecting youths with the outdoors

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library

Call: Ellen Dumm at 303-866-6363 or e-mail ellen.dumm@state....

For more

Goals and objectives of the forums

- Raise awareness about the importance of reconnecting youths with the

outdoors

- Promote discussion in regions across the state of Colorado about resolving

the issue

- Implement a Children's Bill of Outdoor Rights for Colorado's youth

- Compile a database of current replicable initiatives and collaborations

- Develop and distribute a tool kit for communities and organizations

- Foster a collaborative network of stakeholders

- Determine suggestions and recommendations to be addressed at local, regional, state and national levels, including policy recommendations

- Publish a report of successes, challenges and action items

- Convene a final forum in September 2009 to share results and determine strategies to implement recommendations

- Make the state of Colorado a leader in this movement

Source: Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien's

Web site.

— Steamboat Springs, with its wealth of outdoor activities and youth-oriented programs, could serve as example for other Colorado communities. Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien will hold a public forum Tuesday in Steamboat Springs about the importance of connecting children to the outdoors, and what she hears here will be taken to other stops on her tour across the state.

Ellen Dumm, a spokeswoman for O'Brien, said the issue of youth outdoor education and activity has become more prevalent nationally because childhood obesity has doubled in the past 20 years. Studies show today's children spend half as much time outdoors as children two decades ago did.

Not only does outdoor activity improve physical health and mental health, but it encourages love of outdoor recreational activities, which accounts for tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue for the state, Dumm said.

"A big chunk of our economy is part of this," she said. "If we don't have that next generation who enjoys going outdoors, we lose that part of our population."

Not only that, but it encourages the state's youth to understand the value of conservation, said Catherine Carson, chairwoman of the Routt County Democratic Party.

"It really increases the respect our children and adults have and the responsibility for the future of our environment," Carson said.

Carson said there are so many outdoor programs, like Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and Yampatika, offered to Steamboat youths that our county can be an example for the rest of the state.

"I suspect places like Steamboat, kids are more active and attune to outdoor activity," Dumm said. "That's why we're coming, to see what works there and if it can be translated to other communities in the state."

Dumm said outdoor education is one of the issues O'Brien has advocated as president of the Colorado Child's Campaign for the 16 years before her tenure as lieutenant governor.

She said that's why O'Brien decided to hold the forums - to see what's going on in communities across Colorado. Dumm said what O'Brien learns will be taken back to the state level to create policies that encourage outdoor education.

Carson said it was important not only for Steamboat to provide input about how to encourage children to get outdoors, but to receive feedback from other communities in the state that could help the city enhance its outdoor educational offerings.

O'Brien first will stop in Steamboat at 10 a.m. Tuesday to meet with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps staff, which is building a bike trail on Emerald Mountain.

The forum will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

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