Mayor's Office Press Release

Interior Department Selects Houston as Priority City to Connect Youth to the Great Outdoors
Part of Nationwide Commitment to Inspire Young People to Play, Learn, Serve and Work on Public Lands

April 7, 2016 -- As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary of Land & Minerals Management, and Paul McEntire, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston today to announce that Houston has been selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

The initiative, funded through a $2.5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the YMCA of Greater Houston to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“Engaging people of all ages, especially youth, in enjoying and caring for parks and public lands builds a sense of stewardship and fosters deep connections to nature that will last a lifetime,” said Assistant Secretary Janice Schneider. “Houston is blessed with amazing public parks and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership with financial support from the American Express Foundation and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, stewards and leaders, while helping young people connect to the public lands in their community.”

“Today’s youngsters spend too much time texting, watching TV or playing video games,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “I applaud First Lady Michelle Obama for working to change that. Her Let’s Move initiative will help get kids up off the couch and outside to enjoy all that nature has to offer.  Houston is proud to be one of the first cities selected to participate in the program.  We are working to expand our parks and add hundreds of miles of hike and bike trails.  With all of the recreational opportunities available here, there is no reason to stay cooped up inside all day.”

“On behalf of all my fellow Houstonians, I want to thank First Lady Michelle Obama, the Department of Interior, and the American Express Foundation for choosing Houston to be a part of the ‘Let’s Move! Outside Initiative.’  This inspiring nationwide movement to encourage young people as well as people of all ages to take full advantage of public parks and natural wonders is a welcome addition to our great city,” Congressman Al Green said. “I believe that the YMCA of Greater Houston can be an excellent facilitator and partner in this effort to get Houston moving and active outdoors.”

“The importance of supporting our youth in every field of their development is paramount. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative is the exact embodiment of this most important feat. It insures that that children are active and healthy. The Let’s Move! Outside initiative also is funding organizations here in the 18th Congressional District that are committed to providing activities and support for the healthy growth of our children. Ensuring millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors. I salute First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move! Outside initiative” said Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

“Many people in Houston don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Paul McEntire, CEO & President, YMCA of Greater Houston.  “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for children and families to have fun, deepen connections to the city’s natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks.”

The Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Houston joins 26 cities announced in 2015. The remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016.

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the “Every Kid in A Park” program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. These complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for this year’s centennial of the National Park System.