Great Outdoors Month. That’s what the U.S. Senate officially designated the month of June, starting in 2019. And more than half of the states’ governors have issued official proclamations to honor the health benefits and social and economic benefits to people getting into the great outdoors, according to the National Park Service.
This year’s official proclamation from the White House about Great Outdoors Month said this: “During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate our Nation’s vast array of parks, wildlife refuges, forests, monuments, marine sanctuaries, waters, national conservation lands, and other natural treasures… Boundless outdoor spaces across the country unite Americans of every age and background for hiking, fishing, canoeing, hunting, exploring, reflecting, and finding solace. As part of my Administration’s efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, we are committed to ensuring that everyone can access and enjoy America’s great outdoors. Outreach efforts — including the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program — expand trails, conserve rivers, and restore green space so that more people can benefit.”
The state of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources announced this month that they are opening more recreational opportunities for their residents and this includes introducing adaptive equipment like all-terrain track chairs and adaptive beach chairs in five state parks, Camden State Park in Lynd, Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd, Lake Bemidji State Park in Bemidji, Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids, and Myre-Big Island State Park in Albert Lea. Adaptive beach chairs are also available at McCarthy Beach State Park. And adaptive equipment is available at local and regional parks too, like those in Olmstead County and at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.
More information about adaptive equipment and accessible trails can be found at Accessible Nature, a website devoted to making sure everyone, regardless of age and ability, can get their nature fix by providing information on what trails around the country and in Canada are wheelchair accessible, which trails could be done by “elderly hikers” (meaning the trails don’t have difficult steps, rocks, or roots to negotiate), and which trails are designed for those with visual impairments. The website also has information regarding guided tours and adventures, camping, and hunting and fishing.
Other states have hosted events all month long. For example, Michigan’s Great Outdoors Month events included American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day, National Get Outdoors Day, the Great Outdoors Day of Service, the Great American Campout, Kids to Parks Day, Bike Travel Weekend, National Fishing and Boating Week, Free Fishing Weekend, Free ORV Weekend, Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, National Marina Day, according to their website.
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer even included the economic impact our outdoor recreation in her state when she declared it generates 124,000 jobs, “$10.1 billion in outdoor recreation value and $4.7 billion in wages and salaries.” Outdoor recreation makes up 1.9% of Michigan’s Gross Domestic Product.
But this month is just about getting outdoors. It’s also about protecting and valuing our natural spaces. The U.S. Federal government, along with state, tribal and local partners, launched the America the Beautiful Initiative, a voluntary conservation effort to conserve and restore 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. You can participate by helping clean up waters and by planting trees.
How can you participate in Great Outdoors Month?
Well, obviously, you can be outside every day, taking walks, biking, having a picnic, being in a local park or even your backyard and being mindful and appreciative while you are there. You can also do human powered activities on your local waterways, such as canoeing, kayaking, floating on a raft, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, and the like. (Choosing gasoline powered boats and Jet Skis causes both environmental and noise pollution.)
You could also bird watch or take your children on a scavenger hunt to take pictures of bugs or rocks or hunt for fossils. You can listen for and identify nature sounds or do yoga outside, and star gaze. Outdoor options are limitless.
And you can participate in local clean-ups and volunteer at parks or with organizations whose mission impacts the great outdoors, like Camp Founder Girls, America’s first historically Black summer camp for girls, which was established in 1924 and accepts donations so campers can attend programs for little to no cost. Or Out There Adventures, a nonprofit that empowers queer youth through their connection with the natural world.
During Great Outdoors Month what you do and how you celebrate doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you are. Make an intentional effort to breathe in the fresh air and to destress in nature every day, during June, and always.