|Fall in Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
RICHMOND - Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe hosted a strategic planning session today in Richmond for the Partnership for Parks campaign founded by the Virginia Association for Parks and the Garden Club of Virginia. The Partnership for Parks was formed to raise private funding to design, build and install new interpretive exhibits in more than a dozen state park visitor centers. The partners recognize that the goal of exhibits is to educate, entertain and inspire park visitors.
More than 30 people from across the Commonwealth came to Richmond to chart a strategic plan for completing this effort by the year 2020. More than $5 million will be needed for the campaign.
At a luncheon following the meeting, Governor McAuliffe said, “Our state parks are treasures enjoyed by more than 9 million visitors a year and they are places where Virginians and visitors to Virginia go to enhance their mental and physical health and well being. The installation of these new exhibits will improve the experience of the many visitors to our state parks, increase knowledge of our natural and cultural heritage and make Virginia an even more attractive place for tourism, a key element of our efforts to build and sustain a new Virginia economy. My thanks to the partnership for helping to make this happen”
Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward introduced Mrs. McAuliffe as an advocate for childhood issues, including quality education, access to healthy foods and the availability of close to home outdoor recreation. Mrs. McAuliffe addressed the group and spoke about the importance of reaching children with the modern technology that they have become accustomed to using an average of eight hours a day. “If we want to make outdoor recreation a lifelong part of a healthy lifestyle, experts tell us these habits must be developed early in life,” said Mrs. McAuliffe. The partnership has already designed an exhibit in collaboration with our state parks titled “Outdoor Challenge” that is a state-of-the-art, high tech, interactive multimedia experience intended to engage youth particularly and everyone else regardless of age in life enhancing outdoor recreation in our parks.
If we also want the millennial generation to understand the stewardship responsibility we all have as citizens, then that too needs to be communicated early. If students understand the connectivity between ourselves and everything else in our environment, they will appreciate the balance that must be maintained,” Mrs. McAuliffe stated.
Johnny Finch, president of the Virginia Association for Parks and Jeanette Cadwallender, president of the Garden Club of Virginia, expressed their appreciation that the Governor and First Lady are supporting the Partnership for Parks. “It may be years before the state’s budget improves enough to address funding for state parks. Our state parks are among America’s best, but simply maintaining and staffing them has been a challenge for the state. We believe the Partnership for Parks campaign is essential to keeping our parks relevant and exciting for visitors young and old alike. Our parks are good for people, good for the environment and are vital to our economy. Tourism is an important part of our economy and our parks are a centerpiece of our tourism infrastructure. To have the support from the McAuliffes strengthens this volunteer effort.” stated the two state leaders.
For more information about the Partnership for Parks visit www.VAParks.net.