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Parks & Recreation: The Gift of Nature

On January 30, 2009, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, at his first press conference as governor, vowed to do something about the gap between today’s children and the natural world. (His predecessor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, had closed seven parks in a budget-cutting move.) “I recently read a book,” Quinn said. “It talked about nature-deficit disorder where we should leave no child inside.” That would be music to the ears of any author whose book had coined a phrase. But better yet, Quinn followed through on his pledge two months later.

On March 5, he reopened seven state parks, arguing again that Illinois children deserved every chance to connectwith nature. To this, he added a more direct economic argument: State parks bring tourism dollars to the state and also are important for local residents who can’t afford to go on vacations during tough economic times.

Quinn’s decision coincided with ongoing efforts by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and by the state’s Leave No Child Inside initiative, launched in 2007 by Chicago Wilderness, a coalition of more than 240 public and private organizations.

The Illinois initiative is one of more than 50 regional campaigns that have sprung up in the United States and Canada over the past three years, which together comprise a growing international network of thousands of individuals, families, and organizations building a movement to enable kids to get outdoors.

These campaigns include local, state, and national park and recreation agencies; educators;…

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