You are here: home   Blogs   The Range Blog   Time to get serious about fun!
The Range Blog

Time to get serious about fun!

Document Actions
Tip Jar Donation

Your donation supports independent non-profit journalism from High Country News.

Ben Long | Sep 15, 2011 09:00 AM

 Now for some serious talk about fun. The world needs more fun.

Lighten up. Grab a kid and a sack lunch and get outside. The backyard or the Brooks Range. It’s your duty, if you care about Mother Earth.

Yes, write your Congressman. Yes, make that donation. Shop for organic, fairly traded, locally grown soy-burger produced by feminist communes of Tibetan exiles.

Aidan Long's first trout

But go have fun. Play hooky from the doom and gloom. The future depends on it.

 I’ve been thumbing through the statistics compiled by the Outdoor Foundation about how Americans enjoy the outdoors. For the Outdoor Industry Association, this is market research. But it’s even more important in the big picture. People who enjoy the outdoors, across the board, are the people who support conservation with their dollars and their votes. They are the ones who see the wounds on the Earth with their own eyes and are compelled to act to make the world better. Couch potatoes make lousy activists.

First the good news: Americans still love the Great Outdoors.  Half of all Americans, 150 million of us – take part in some kind of outdoor activity each year.

But the picture looks more troubling when you remember the future belongs to the young.

The older people get, the less time they tend to spend outdoors. Outdoor activities tend to peak between the ages of 11 and 16. That's also roughly the age when lifelong "outdoor participants" are introduced to outdoor activities.

Kids are spending less time outdoors. In 2006, 78 percent of kids age 6-12 took part in an outdoor activity that year. In 2009, the number was only 62 percent.

The study has also identified “gateway sports” that tend to introduce kids  to the outdoors. These include simple, low-budget activities like fishing, bicycle riding, camping, hiking. Good news is interest in these sports appears to be on the increase.

The survey asked kids who is most likely to get them involved in the outdoors? Parents. Siblings. Peers. Groups like the Boy Scouts.

Asked why they want to enjoy the outdoors and kids said: For fun. Simple as that.

For years, my wife and I volunteered in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. We dragged our “little,” Christina, into the woods one weekend a month. Like or not, she paddled canoes, picked berries, shot a .22. She often argued she preferred to shop or watch a movie, but we out-voted her.

Today, Christina is all grown up and moved away. She has a career helping manage public land for the Bureau of Land Management. Her Facebook posts are full of reports from her latest hiking and camping trips.

I tell you – that’s the most fun of all.

So tell me – what’s the best way to have fun with kids outdoors?

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, conservationist and father in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

Image: Catch-and-release is optional when fishing with kids. (c) Ben Long

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. Rancher vs BLM: a 20-year standoff ends with tense roundup |
  2. Photos of a standoff | Armed militia members join a Nevada rancher to pro...
  3. The energy haves and have-nots | Will rooftop solar owners get off the grid — and...
  4. Why homes are lost to wildfire | This Forest Service expert says it's as much a soc...
  5. The future of the Sacramento Delta hangs in the balance | But few Californians seem to grasp what is at stak...
  1. Why homes are lost to wildfire | This Forest Service expert says it's as much a soc...
  2. Photos of a standoff | Armed militia members join a Nevada rancher to pro...
  3. The energy haves and have-nots | Will rooftop solar owners get off the grid — and...
  4. Will the Colorado River reach the Gulf of California once more? | Photographs of last month's historic water pulses....
  5. Locals resist a Bakkenization of the Beartooths | South-central Montanans oppose new drilling, forew...
HCN Classifieds
Subscriber Alert
More from Recreation
Native American tourism quietly thrives Can tourists benefit, not just exploit, tribal communities?
Corporate giant Xanterra takes over operations at Glacier National Park
Mind over mountain A partly paralyzed athlete pushes his limits, as adaptive recreation booms in the West.
All Recreation
 
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone