Sussex Outdoors Summit kicks off campaign to champion outdoor, family-friendly activity
LAUREL – Governor Jack Markell and other state and local officials announced their visions and support for “Sussex Outdoors,” a southern Delaware initiative that seeks to get families and children outdoors for physical activity and to create healthy lifestyles, at a summit on Thursday at Trapp Pond State Park. Attendees heard from national experts, state leaders, and outdoors and health organizations about strategies and opportunities for encouraging families to be more active outdoors.
Governor Markell, a nationally-recognized speaker on the importance of outdoor activity and honorary chair of Sussex Outdoors, announced his vision for a proposed trails and pathways plan to be developed through a collaborative effort of two state agencies, DNREC and DelDOT.
“These proposed projects will expand trail networks or begin trail networks, inside and outside of state parks in all three counties,” said Governor Markell. “They will help us realize a truly walkable, bikeable Delaware that all Delawareans can use and enjoy. Our continued commitment to invest in outdoor opportunities, both financially and through the efforts of community/government partnerships such as ‘Sussex Outdoors,’ will help us ensure the quality of life Delawareans deserve. By working together, we improve the health and wellbeing of our state’s children and stimulate job growth through investment in infrastructure at the same time.”
John Hollis, Sussex County Manager of Nemours Health and Prevention Services, one of the sponsors of the event, challenged summit attendees: “Sussex County has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as one of 40 communities nationally that will focus on the lifestyle changes that will be healthier both physically and emotionally.”
Other sponsors of the summit were the Sussex County Council, Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition, Sanofi Aventis, and Bike Delaware. “Sussex Outdoors” is a partnership of DNREC Sussex County Council, Sussex Child Health Promotion Coalition, and Nemours Health and Prevention Services.
In addition to DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, state Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee and DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, speakers promoting outdoor physical activity included Mark Fenton, one of the nation’s foremost experts on walking and host of the new PBS series, America’s Walking; Rich Killingsworth, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer for the National Foundation on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and innovator of the Active Living by Design program.
All speakers emphasized the connection between sedentary lifestyles and poor health, and contrasted that with the link between physical activity and good health.
Attendees participated in workshops that included such topics as an overview of Sussex trails and current opportunities presented by Delaware State Parks, Sussex Master Planning and the Sussex Land Trust.
Keynote speakers issued a call of action challenging each leader to encourage active outdoor activity wherever and with whomever they may come in contact with. “We passed along to everyone the importance of engaging in active outside activity, wherever that may be,” Hollis continued. “We want this call to action to go viral at the community and state level for everyone to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”