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The students are getting ready for the one-mile walk along San Francisco Bay Trail. (Photo by Serla Rusli)

Not just a walk in the park for kids in Richmond

on March 31, 2016

The fourth graders of Peres Elementary School were buzzing with excitement as they filed outside the historic Craneway Pavilion last Wednesday during the Every Kid in a Park launch event. They were about to receive their park passes, handed to them personally by National Park Service Deputy Director Denise Ryan, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, as well as NFL players Joshua Johnson, Marcus Peters and Alvin Bowen. Once they received their passes, they would walk for a mile along the San Francisco Bay Trail and end their visit at the Rosie the Riveter park visitor’s center.

Every Kid in a Park is a White House youth initiative that gives every fourth grader in the United States, along with their families, free passes to visit all federally-owned lands and waters, including the national parks. The Richmond program is a collaboration between UC Berkeley’s California Outdoor Engagement Coalition, the National Park Service, the Rosie the Riveter Trust, the West Contra Costa Unified School District and Groundwork Richmond, a network dedicated to promote environmental, economic and social well-being in Richmond. Their aim is to bring 1,200 kids from schools in Richmond and San Pablo to the Rosie the Riveter park over the next few months.

“We want to orient the kids to what the federal properties are all about and what the National Park Service is all about,” said Sue Fritzke, the deputy superintendent for the Rosie the Riveter park. “The National Park Service is turning 100 years old this year, and this is all part of the centennial initiative and celebration to try and bring people, and get them familiar with what we have to offer.”

“It’s a program that we are very every excited about,” said Marsha Mather-Thrift, the executive director of Rosie the Riveter Trust, the non-profit organization established to preserve the historic resources of the park. “We have always wanted to bring school groups to the park ever since we opened the visitor’s center. So our goal is to fund this program every year, because we’d like to support what the parks are doing. It’s also an effort to make every single fourth grader in the United States feel like the national parks belong to them.”

Mather-Thrift also believes that there is a great educational value in the program. For Richmond specifically, she said, the lessons about World War II learned at the park will be particularly relevant to the fourth graders, as it will complement the local history that the students are studying.

“In addition, because we are a national park, they are also studying the planet and climate and looking at how people came together at WWII, and looking at how we are able to overcome enormous challenges,” said Mather-Thrift. “We are trying to inspire them to protect the planet for the future.”

The program is also meant to increase awareness of what the park is about and increase the number of visitors. Fritzke said that most people in Richmond have no idea that they have a national park right at their doorstep. “Most of the kids here have never even walked the Bay Trail. They don’t even know about some other properties that we have here in Richmond that tell an amazing history for what Richmond was all about during World War II and how it has continued to grow since then,” she said.

As the fourth graders were finishing their walk along the Bay Trail, one last surprise awaited them. Marshawn Lynch, the former running back for the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, better known as “Beast Mode,” made an appearance at the center to interact with the kids and encourage them to visit the parks.

When asked for an interview for Richmond Confidential, Lynch, who grew up in Oakland and has never been fond of talking to the media, simply said, “I am confidential.”



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