Boston University Medical Campus has awarded the Franklin Park Coalition a grant to support outdoor youth activities, according to a Tuesday press release.
The BU Community Grant, which totals $2,500, is awarded by the BUMC to a program in either Roxbury or the South End that benefits young people, said Valeda Britton, the executive director of community relations at BUMC.
“The BU Community Grant for ‘Back to Nature’ at Franklin Park is a way of getting young people to go into Franklin Park and utilize Franklin Park for various activities,” she said. “It picked up on our making a difference in the lives of young people and benefitting youth, so we liked this community grant application.”
The FPC’s ‘Back to Nature’ program will encourages children from ages five to 18 to utilize Franklin Park’s 500 acres of facilities and will benefit an estimated 1,000 young people, Britton said.
“The program is designed … to bring up to a thousand young people into the park,” Britton said. “It’s not just one event specific. It’s over the course of the year. They’ll have a turkey trot, they’ll have snowshoeing, biking, a weekly drop-in sports night. They’re doing things over the year to promote good health and good choices for youth in the community.”
FPC Executive Director Christine Poff said the grant will be earmarked for the extensive recreational and educational programs the park holds for the community throughout the year.
“The way to get people in the park and outdoors is by running these programs,” Poff said. “It’s really hard to fund them and maintain them and run them, and people in the communities that use them really love and count on them. We serve thousands of people a year with these programs. It’s great that BU recognized this through the grant.”
Britton said awarding the grant to a youth program, particularly one such as ‘Back to Nature’ that promotes physical fitness, is in accordance with BUMC’s commitment to engaging the Boston youth community through healthy activities.
“We want to be a good neighbor and promote activities that benefit youth,” Britton said. “Last March, we opened up a fitness facility over at the Blackstone Community Health Center in the South End, and that was really targeted to combat teen obesity … We really want to be a part of the community and engage the community. Youth is a good way to do it.”
Youth programs sponsored by the FPC include snow festivals, New England forest studies, summer sports nights and outdoor open concerts, all of which are freely accessible to the public, Poff said.
“We want more people to get outdoors and use their local park to have fun in the outdoors.” Poff said. “We want city residents to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors, because it’s really good for their health and mental health. We want people not to just be sitting in front of a computer or TV all day because this park is so wonderful.”
Encouraging urban residents to participate in the environment is beneficial to their mental and physical health, a concept that reflects the beliefs of Franklin Park’s designer Frederick Law Olmsted, Poff said.
“It’s much cleaner air in the parks than it is in the middle of a bigger street in Roxbury,” she said. “The man who created the park, Frederick Law Olmsted … believed in the mentally restorative powers of being in parks and being outdoors and being in a forest around trees and green. It’s really good for your health.”