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Celebrating National Get Outdoors Day with the U.S. Forest Service

(From Left to Right) National Get Outdoors Day Colorado Coordinator Susan Alden-Weingardt, Smokey Bear, Mayor Michael Hancock, and Emcee, Coach Stacy Fowler celebrate National Get Outdoors Day Colorado 2012 on the main stage of the event.

(From Left to Right) National Get Outdoors Day Colorado Coordinator Susan Alden-Weingardt, Smokey Bear, Mayor Michael Hancock, and Emcee, Coach Stacy Fowler celebrate National Get Outdoors Day Colorado 2012 on the main stage of the event.

Thousands of people across the nation attended a variety of events on U.S. Forest Service lands as part of the 5th annual National Get Outdoors Day.

NationalGetOutdoorsDay.Org is a campaign that encourages Americans, especially young people, to seek out healthy, active outdoor lifestyles, connect with nature and embrace public lands. The event also supports President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Outside! initiative.

The Forest Service hosted two signature events in Colorado and North Carolina on June 9 and will host a third on June 16 in Millcreek, Utah, near the Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

In Denver, more than 8,000 people and more than 115 exhibitors descended on City Park, where Mayor Michael Hancock and Conor Casey of the Colorado Rapids professional soccer team made appearances.

The celebration featured the new Expressive Arts Village that connected kids and families to creativity and outdoors through urban agriculture, culinary arts, nature arts, and cultural arts. Included in this section of the event was the national launch of the Get to Know Your Wild Neighbors Program, a Forest Service partnership with Canada-based Get to Know that champions the use of expressive arts as a way to connect children with nature. The agency is helping to promote the Get to Know art contest for kids to submit original works of art, writing, photography, videography and music inspired by nature.

Kids and families could go through the Junior Ranger Camp course with kids earning their Junior Ranger certificate. Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl were ever-present symbols of environmental responsibility throughout the event taking photographs with kids and families and spreading the messages of fire prevention.

A new feature of the Denver event was a quarter-mile-long adaptive recreation expo that showcased activities such as accessible rock climbing, fishing, tennis and bicycling, which provided an opportunity for people of all abilities to learn about and try various recreation activities.

Forest Service employees painted plants and animals on kids who attended the 5th annual National Get Outdoors Day event on the Pisgah National Forest.

Forest Service employees painted plants and animals on kids who attended the 5th annual National Get Outdoors Day event on the Pisgah National Forest.

In North Carolina, the  Pisgah National Forest worked with the Cradle of Forestry in America to host a showcase of outdoor adventure sports, traditional sportsmanship, and camp and trail skills in a scenic setting. The highlights, as always, included an appearance by Smokey Bear, a perennial favorite at many Forest Service events.

But the more than 650 people who attended the Cradle of Forestry event went beyond simply stepping outside. They were able to learn how to do it safely and have fun. Participants learned map and compass skills, made nature-inspired crafts and learned the fine art of still-water paddling with canoes and kayaks. Trout Unlimited helped with fly fishing and fly tying demonstrations, and the North Carolina Bowhunters Association kept busy with archery lessons.

The Cradle of Forestry is an area on the Pisgah that is considered the birthplace of conservation. It is on the site that the Biltmore Forest School – the first school of forestry in the U.S. – opened its doors around 1900.

“I don’t think there is a better place to have a National Get Outdoors Day in terms of the Pisgah Ranger District or the Cradle of Forestry,” said Stevin Westcott, spokesman for the Forest Service’s forests in North Carolina. “The Pisgah district is pretty much the busiest district of all eight districts in North Carolina. We have heavy visitation with recreation as a focal point of operations here.”

At the Cradle of Forestry, which sees roughly 40,000 visitors a year, there are activities most summer weekends. “There’s something for everyone,” Westcott said. Firefly events, bug days, musical performances and a variety of other fun, educational programs are among the offerings. The Cradle of Forestry also has the Forest Discovery Center with hands-on exhibits and a variety of trails.

To find a national forest or grassland near you, go to Find a Forest.

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