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A WA "Staycation" with a Purpose

June 24, 2010

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. - Instead of staring at the great outdoors as a screen-saver on a laptop, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) suggests Washington families experience the beauty of nature firsthand this weekend. Saturday's "Great American Backyard Campout" is an annual celebration of being outdoors, sponsored by NWF.

At the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, the campout has become so popular that it lasts all weekend. Dave Myers, the outdoor program manager on the base, says it started as a way to give some "R-and-R" to families of deployed soldiers, and it has become a real community event.

"We have the local astronomy society in here with telescopes, so people can get a great view of the stars if the weather's right. Throughout the day Saturday, we've got crafts going on; a local sporting goods store is bringing some archery targets and teaching archery; and a fishing guide comes out."

Cathy Curley, NWF Pacific Region director of operations, Seattle, says it's a fun way to pull kids and parents away from the television and computer screens for awhile - and it has a serious purpose, too.

"Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as their parents did. They're really missing out on the simple pleasures and lasting mental and physical health benefits of daily outdoor time. Our goal is just to get kids outside! We feel that will have a lasting effect on these families and children."

Curley says the "Great American Backyard Campout" is part of her organization's "Green Hour" campaign, which encourages kids to spend at least one hour a day outdoors and foster their appreciation for nature.

Myers says about 140 people are expected for this weekend's campout. Other public campouts are being planned in local parks across the state - or anyone can have their own, right in their own backyard. Tips for doing that are online at www.backyardcampout.org.


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA