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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan,, 804-786-2292.

Date: September 07, 2007
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442,

National Conference on Parks Yields Historic Agreement

(WILLIAMBURG, Va.) – A three-day National Conference on Parks heldin Colonial Williamsburg ended with a ground-breaking agreement targetedat improving the health of America’s children.

The National Association of State Park Directors, under the leadershipof newly elected President Greg Butts, director of Arkansas State Parks,and the National Park Service Leadership Council led by National ParkService Director Mary Bomar, signed a resolution pledging that state andnational parks would work together to combat obesity, reduce incidenceof diabetes, attention disorders, and other mental and physical maladiesresulting from a lack of outdoor exercise and contact with nature.

Joe Elton, Virginia’s State Parks director and the conference chair,called the agreement both “historic and timely. There is littledoubt that many of the nation’s youth prefer to spend time indoorswatching TV and playing video games rather than getting the outdoor recreationand contact with nature that is so important to our mental and physicalhealth.”

Elton credited author Richard Louv, who wrote Last Child in the Woods;Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder, with sparking a nationalmovement and being the driving force behind this healthy lifestyle movement.

Elton also credits U. S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, NationalParks Director Mary Bomar and Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling with drivinghome the importance of addressing this national health crisis during theirconference presentations.

In his remarks at the conference, Secretary Kempthorne pledged to rallythe federal agencies he oversees to work collaboratively with the states. “Ihope we can reach a day when families and children move seamlessly fromstate parks to national parks, with doors open everywhere and pathwaysthat lead from one program to another, from one life-changing and life-enrichingexperience to another,” he said. “A day when children begtheir parents to take them to a parks as much – and maybe more – thanthey beg them to buy a new video game.”

NPS Director Mary Bomar called the state and national parks the frontline in the effort to reconnect children and their families to outdoorrecreation and nature. The compact signed by the state and national parksrecognizes that by working together they can make a bigger impact. Specificallythe agreement calls on the state and national parks to:

- Focus on individual initiatives to increase the public awareness andvalue of connecting children and nature, toward a goal of improving theknowledge of our nation’s natural resources and the health and welfareof present and future generations of young Americans.
- Join in a continuing dialogue to discuss common issues andimplement solutions to create a seamless system of services.
- Share information and knowledge on developing and expandingnatural resource education and recreation opportunities for children andtheir families.
- Engage other federal, state, local, tribal and non-governmentpartners in shared technology and interactive programs and problem solvingactivities to achieve mutually agreed upon goals to connect children andnature.
- Promote a national campaign to recognize the importanceof this connecting children and families to nature.

In other conference actions, outgoing NASPD President Charles Salkin,director of Delaware State Parks, presented Virginia Director Joe Eltonwith the 2007 NASPD Distinguished Service Award for “leadershipto the conservation, interpretation and enhancement of our nation’snatural and cultural state park treasures.”

Elton, a long-time member of the NASPD Board of Directors, was electedvice-president of the national association. Since 1994, Elton has servedas Virginia’s State Parks director under four Virginia governors – twoRepublican and two Democratic – and is considered among the nation’smost effective state park directors.

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