Kids! Hit the Trail, Win Prizes!

San Elijo Lagoon's Nature Center loop trail in Cardiff will be the first County park site to feature TRACK trails.
April 9, 2013 | 2:01pm

Well, that should get them outside! Parents, you know what it’s like. Getting your kids to unplug from electronic devices is a battle.

Now County Parks and Recreation and a local natural food grocery store chain have found a way to make both parents and kids happy.

You start with buying healthy food, exercising in the great outdoors and lots of family time. Kids, did I mention prizes? And did I mention you can use smart phones to learn about nature on the trail? 

The first step starts with a customer appreciation sale at all four Jimbo’s Naturally grocery store locations on Saturday, April 13. Customers get five percent off their entire purchase that day and have the option of donating their savings to the non-profit San Diego County Parks Society. The store chain will also donate five percent of the entire day’s sales from all stores to the society.

Step two will see the society turn the proceeds over to County Parks so it can become not only the first parks and recreation system in California but the first along the west coast to launch a TRACK Trails program for kids.  

The program is part of the national Kids in Parks campaign designed to get children to explore the beauty of nature in our parks. And that’s where step three comes in; families get their kids to pull on their sneakers, get their hats and grab the sunscreen for a hike on a TRACK trail. Oh, and don’t forget the smart phone. Parents can decide to bring it for safety reasons or let their kids use it to learn about nature. Here’s how.

While tramping along the existing park trails, they’ll come upon kiosks with self-guided brochures designed to turn an ordinary family hike into a fun-filled adventure. Right there on the trail or upon coming home, families can log on to a website and mark their progress in a nature journal allowing the children to qualify for prizes like stickers, badges and backpacks. 

The program is already big in North Carolina, Virginia, South Dakota and the District of Columbia.

“Kids shouldn’t miss out on what parks have to offer,” said County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Albright. “All of our electronic devices can’t take the place of actually experiencing nature and all its wonders and this TRACK trails program allows you to combine the best of both worlds by using technology to enhance what you learn about nature.” 

County Parks initially plans to place TRACK kiosks along existing trails at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in Encinitas and Lindo Lake and Louis Stelzer County Parks in Lakeside. A portion of San Elijo’s six miles of trails may be turned into TRACK trails while the shorter trails at the Lakeside parks range from two to two-and-a-half miles and may be converted to TRACK trails entirely. Once those are up and running, County Parks plans to expand the program to other parks.    

So kids, are you ready to hit the trail? And parents, don’t say a word about the exercise, sunshine and healthy living. Just know your children got a dose of what’s good for them without them even knowing it!   

For more information on County Parks and its programs, visit sdparks.org.