Developed by Seabourne Consulting, experts in Bright Spot: Kids in Parks

Bright Spot: Kids in Parks

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

This bright spot was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.


Detailed Description

By turning existing outdoor trails into kid-friendly hiking trails, the Kids in Parks (KIP) program increases access to, and the number of, places for physical activity. KIP directly changes the community environment and by providing incentives and organizational supports to promote physical activity through hiking, disc golf, and other outdoor activities.

*The Center for Training and Research Translation worked with Kids in Parks developers to review the evidence in support of the intervention and develop detailed guidance on how to implement it in practice*

Expected Outcomes

Sites implementing Kids in Parks can expect to increase the appeal of existing parks with hiking trais and thereby attract families with young children and teens. This potentially increases outdoor physical activity and decreases screen time among children and teens.

Key Lessons Learned

Site Standards. Some national parks and state park systems have sign standards that have to be met. Therefore, the KIP trailhead sign or kiosk needs to be modified to fit within the standards of that agency.

Cost Details

As of May 2014, the following costs are associated with this intervention: $5,000 per TRACK TRAIL. Other costs include cost of staff time to implement the intervention, maintenance of the TRACK Trail(s) trail surface and trail head, the trail Grand Opening ceremony / reordering brochure stock as needed, and other PR events to promote trail usage.

For latest cost details, please contact the Kids in Parks program directly. To see actual costs realized by communities previously implementing KIP, view the case studies located on the resource tab.

Key Steps for Implementation

To open a new trail, KIP works with a partner who has jurisdiction over a suitable pre-existing hiking trail. KIP and partners follow this process:

  1. Form a partnership and formalize a general agreement through a Memorandum of Understanding.
  2. Select and vet a trail for difficulty and safety. KIP uses existing trails so program maintenance rests at the partner level and involves no KIP staff cost. Average trail length is 1.25 miles. Local partner(s) adapt the KIP Trailhead kiosk for a specific site, including text and map portion of sign. KIP has developed more than 20 different self-guided brochures for trail use.
  3. From this group of brochure options, a local partner will select a series of four brochure-led trail adventures. At the trailhead, the local partner will install the KIP kiosk that posts the trail map and holds the four brochures.
  4. Three weeks in advance of the Trail Grand Opening, invitations are sent out and the press is invited.
  5. A webpage is developed for the new trail to go on the KIP website; a trail webpage includes trail information, driving directions, pictures, brochure downloads, etc.
  6. For each trail opening, a grand opening is held to publicize the event.

*For more detailed guidance on implementing Kids in Parks, go to the Center TRT and Kids in Parks websites.*


Program partners aid the KIP staff in trail selection at each public land site, in the development of the brochure-led adventures, with the installation of the trailhead sign, and with the ongoing maintenance of the trail and trailhead site. Possible Partnerships can range from the local to national level.

Existing partnerships include:

  • Federal Land Management Agencies (including National Park Service, the US Forest Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • State land management agencies (including state park systems)
  • City and county land management agencies (including city and county)
  • Parks and Recreation Departments and School systems
  • Other Nations (including Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)
  • Private Land Owners Healthcare partners

Policies, Laws and Regulations

May need to examine existing school and recreation policies regarding use of parks and trails.

Required Staffing (FTEs)

Existing park staff typically assume the KIP responsibilities and no new FTEs are required to implement the program.

Special Funding

Some of the city/county parks in Tier 1 have received their trails for free through KIP's partnership with the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association. The financial assistance they received is the installation of the trail for free.

You can contact the KIP program to see if funding assistance is still available. KIP grantee must be a member of the NC Parks and Recreation Association.

Special Infrastructure

  • Must have suitable, pre-existing hiking trails. Need strong community partnerships
  • Kids in Parks charges its partners/grantors a base price of $5,000 per TRACK Trail.
  • For that cost, each trail site receives a trailhead sign/kiosk, four sets of self-guided brochures, integration into the program's website, quarterly data reports about the registered kids from their site, and prize dissemination for kids who register their trail adventures.


Kids in Parks Staff may hold a site visit before launch.

Types of Staff

The Kids in Parks TRACK Trails program requires that a local staff person serve as Trail Manager and primary contact.

Outcome Measures

One of the outcome goals of KIP is to modify and increase the appeal of existing parks with hiking trails to children and their families. As of 6/29/13, there were 56 TRACK Trails in 5 states and the District of Columbia (NC, VA, MD, SD, WV), a website tracking and incentive program, and a system of criteria for developing new trail sites. A secondary outcome goal is to increase outdoor physical activity and indirectly decrease screen time among children and teens. Because information on baseline physical activity of users is not reported, it is difficult to assess this behavior change.

Process Measures

Data from users who register and use Kids in Parks website: Process evaluation is ongoing in the Kids in Parks program. User data are continually collected on the website about trail use as well as limited demographic information. These data are compiled and sent back to the local TRACK Trail manager. Additionally, the trail manager is required to send reports on activities and usage to the KIP staff. Using the online data from approximately 600 registered users, over 40% stated that they came to the park specifically to hike the TRACK trails, 60% reported never having been to the park before, and 25% had never been hiking before their hike on a TRACK Trail.

 Related Topics

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Children and Youth