Interior Dept. selects Nashville connecting youth to ‘great outdoors’

Mayor Barry plants trees with children from the YMCA

Mayor Barry plants trees with children from the YMCA

As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move! Outside’ initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Mayor Megan Barry has joined National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell, and Dan Dummermuth, CEO, YMCA of Middle Tennessee to announce that Nashville has been selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

The initiative, funded through a $2.5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“Engaging people of all ages, especially youth, in enjoying and caring for parks and public lands builds a sense of stewardship and fosters deep connections to nature that will last a lifetime,” said O’Dell. “Nashville is blessed with amazing public parks and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership with financial support from the American Express Foundation and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, stewards and leaders, while helping young people connect to the public lands in their community.”

“Kids who are active and engaged in a healthier lifestyle are shown to have better outcomes in the classroom and in other areas of their lives,” said Barry. “This private-public partnership represents a fantastic opportunity for Nashville’s youth to not only take advantage of our great public parks, but also to take ownership and pride in them in a way that benefits both children and the broader community.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don’t always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Dan Dummermuth, CEO, YMCA of Middle Tennessee.

“This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for children and families to have fun, deepen connections to the city’s natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America’s parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America’s public lands and treasured national parks.”

The Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Nashville joins 26 cities announced in 2015. The remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit <>.

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the ‘Every Kid in A Park’ program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. These compliment the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for this year’s centennial of the National Park System.

The announcement of the program took place at the Hands on Nashville Urban Farm, a public-private partnership spearheaded by Hands On Nashville, The Office of the Mayor, and Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation. The Urban Farm is a community resource that encourages Nashville’s volunteers and diverse residents to have hands-on learning experiences, explore and taste fresh food, and learn about agriculture in a real farm setting. Annually, the Urban Farm engages 2,000+ youth and adult volunteers in maintaining the space and harvesting produce.