|Trail sign in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area|
By Mary Waller
When parents think of spending the day with their children they generally play video games, go to the movies, play arcade games or anything that generally has children in front of some type of screen. Many children don’t know about the playground they can go to for free-- national parks. New Jersey has many national, historic and mostly free parks for families to go to for a great day.
The Garden State is home to some of the most beautiful, scenic places that are nearby to travel to and enjoy. One of those places being a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The 2,180+ mile scenic trail attracts thousands of visitors over the various states it crosses over, stretching from Maine to Georgia. After being completed in 1937, the trail is maintained by the National Parks Service, US Forest Service, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers. Traversing the northwest corner of the state, “the 72-mile New Jersey section gives a view and a feeling of what this area was like two hundred years ago,” states njskylands.com.
Another national recreation area New Jersey has to offer is the Delaware Water Gap, where a portion of the Appalachian Trail draws lots of families for a day hike. The 70,000-acre park welcomes those who wish to paddle down the river or hike the ridges and valley. According to the National Park Service, the Delaware Water Gap “has known human hand and voice for 10,000 years.”
One of the most historical and significant places New Jersey has is Ellis Island, the first thing that 12 million immigrants stepped onto when they arrived to America between 1892 to 1954. Situated in New York Bay next to the Statue of Liberty and the Jersey City shoreline, Ellis Island offered these immigrants a gateway to a new home, a new start and a new life. The stories of these immigrants are still told today in the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and welcome those willing to listen.
The New Jersey Pinelands is classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and in 1978 was established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve. The Pinelands combines over one million acres of farms, forests and wetlands that also house 56 communities that have over 700,000 residents.
Those are just some of what New Jersey has to offer. But why should families spend more time outdoors? There are new scientific studies and research that show how nature and the outdoors help improve a child’s growth and development.
There are clear physical benefits for children spending time outdoors, such has helping fight obesity, but there are underlying benefits as well. A May 2010 Report to the President from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity states: “Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity,” according to the National Recreation and Park Association.
Children who spend more time outdoors are also overall healthier, happier and have better social lives since outdoor play allows for children to play in unstructured and creative play.
New Jersey is home to so many outdoors treasures that can help a child grow into a more well-rounded and happier person. So when families want to spend time together, take a day trip to a national park and enjoy the natural wonders New Jersey has to offer.