Free Close-to-Home Outdoor Fun and Fitness for All!
Luzerne County: Starting Saturday, April 23, Luzerne County’s free, fun-filled, all-ages outdoor scavenger hunt will begin. This year the Keystone Active Zone Passport is celebrating its 10th year of inspiring people of all ages and abilities to get active outside while exploring their close-to-home parks, trails and outdoor events. The passport lists “Passport Stops” that offer more than 50 opportunities to enjoy free, outdoor fun and adventure within a 10 to 60 minute drive of almost anywhere in Luzerne County. This year’s passport features a new map of the county making it easier for passport participants to find the stops they want to visit. Passport participants earn awards and chances to win prizes as they visit stops and find and log the answers to each stop’s unique scavenger hunt question. The more stops visited and successfully logged, the more chances to earn prizes like family days at Montage Mountain, bike gift certificates, Kayak tours on the Susquehanna, YMCA memberships and much more.
In addition to parks like Frances Slocum, Nescopeck, Ricketts Glen and Lehigh Gorge the passport also includes Coal Street Park, the Seven Tubs Natural Area, Talen Energy Susquehanna Riverlands Environmental Preserve, the Avondale Mine Disaster Memorial Garden, the Hazle Township Community Park and the Wright Township Recreation Park. Trails included on the passport include the Back Mountain Trail, D & L Black Diamond Trail, Greater Hazleton Rail Trail, Sugar Notch Ridgetop Trails, Susquehanna Warrior Trail, the Wellness Trail at Hazleton’s Health and Wellness Center, and trails at the Picton Wildlife Preserve and the Natural Lands Trust Bear Creek Preserve as well as a stroll around Eckley Miners Village and for the adventurous, the Susquehanna River Water National Recreation Water Trail’s North Branch Section 3.
There are more than 30 free, outdoor events to choose from including the YMCA Camp Kresge’s Open House, National Trails Day, National Get Outdoors Day, Wyoming Valley Riverfest and Moon Lake. Special walks lead by community volunteers and open to all include Y Walk Wednesdays in Wilkes-Barre sponsored by Highmark, Hazleton Walks and Discover the D & L, a stop that also features guided bike rides along with Y Cycle Saturdays; all easy novice and family style rides. Many of the passport stops tell a piece of the story of our local coal mining heritage, especially the D & L Trail, a 165 mile long, multi-county trail that starts in Wilkes-Barre and follows the journey that anthracite coal traveled from mine to market in Philadelphia.
“It’s a great way for people of all ages and abilities to have a fun, easy way to get outside and active all over Luzerne County” says Carol Hussa, one of the program’s organizers. “From family friendly bike rides to rugged trail hikes, river festivals to quiet nature preserves, downtown walking tours to spectacular state parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy and discover with the Keystone Active Zone Passport”.
To participate, visit the website: www.KAZpassport.org register and download your 6 page passport. Visit as many stops as you choose, find the answers to the stops’ questions, and then log your answers on the website to earn awards and chances to win great prizes. For every 5 stops visited and successfully logged participants earn awards that support active living such as free skating passes to the ice rink at the Toyota Sportsplex at Coal Street Park. The more stops visited, the greater the chances of winning prizes such as family days at Montage Mountain; whitewater and kayak excursions; bicycle gift certificates, camping weekends and more. The program runs from Saturday, April 23th to October 1, 2016 and you can start anytime.
In addition to the promise of no-cost, close-to-home fun and great prizes, there are lots of reasons to get out and get moving with the Keystone Active Zone Passport. The program’s three coordinating organizations: the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails and Live Well Luzerne along with a coalition of more than seventy partner organizations, media outlets and companies that make up the KAZ Planning Team; want everyone, young and old, to get moving and active for their health,
According to the PA Department of Health, it is estimated that more than 64% of local adults are overweight or obese. Overweight in children is also alarmingly high; according to the Pennsylvania Growth Screening Program, more than 36% of Luzerne County’s elementary students are overweight or obese. The national County Health Rankings for 2016 reports that 30% of county adults do not participate in any regular physical activity and because of our population’s poor health status, Luzerne County ranks 64 amongst Pennsylvania’s 67 counties; consistently ranked in that lowest ten since 2011. Increased physical activity is recommended to help manage weight; is known to improve overall physical and mental health; helps combat heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer; and helps seniors remain independent longer. Most health experts agree that walking is one of the easiest and most beneficial ways of achieving the recommended amount of daily physical activity. More information about the physical and mental health benefits of the outdoors can be found at the program’s website and at www.SuperParks.org.
Parks and trails are free and close to home and work. Outdoor recreation is a low-cost, fun way to spend quality time together as a family or with friends and is much healthier than time spent in front of the television or computer. Companies, schools, scout troops, youth organizations and other groups can find information ways to incorporate the program into their wellness efforts under the website’s Group Involvement and Promotional Toolkit buttons. “The passport is a great way to learn more about our county’s spectacular outdoor resources that everyone can use and enjoy at no cost” advises Bob Skulsky who coordinates the Greater Hazleton Rail Trail.
The KAZ Passport program was awarded the 2010 Environmental Partnership Award, presented annually by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to individuals or organizations for achieving excellence in environmental protection or conservation by working successfully in partnership with others. “The KAZ Passport is helping to grow the next generation of environmentalist and conservationists by giving kids opportunities to discover and connect with their natural world; an activity that will help them learn to value, preserve and protect the environment now and in the future.” according to Michele Schasberger, member of Live Well Luzerne, a county wide healthy communities coalition that helps to promote and coordinate the program.. “The KAZ Passport is introducing, and reintroducing, people of all ages to the wonders of our beautiful, local outdoor world here at home.”
The program’s website, www.KAZpassport.org provides information about the use of public lands, the benefits of outdoor physical activity and lists all the participating parks, trails, guided walks and events along with their contact information. Participants are encouraged to visit these websites to better prepare for their visits and to learn more about each stop and what else is offered at the different locations.
This program is made possible through funding support from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Lehigh Valley Health Network, PPL, Proctor and Gamble, the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Luzerne County Recreation and Conservation Fund. For more information about the program, to register, volunteer or make a contribution, visit the website www.KAZpassport.org or call 570-208-9622.