Interior Department Selects Philadelphia 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

Last edited 09/30/2021

Date: July 31, 2015
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw (Interior),
Mark McDonald (City of Philadelphia), 215-686-6210
Terri Wellman (YMCA),, 267-241-2464

PHILADELPHIA – As part of the Interior Department’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 experience the great outdoors, U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor joined Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Chief Operating Officer of the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA Jon Agnew and local partners to announce the selection of Philadelphia as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

The initiative, funded as part of a $5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA to create a community coordinator position to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands in Philadelphia, from local parks to federal lands and waters. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during next year’s National Park Service Centennial. Today, Deputy Secretary Connor also announced grants totaling $125,000 to put young people to work at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and the Flight 93 National Memorial.

“Philadelphia is fortunate to have parks and national public lands close by, as well as a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Through this new partnership that includes the financial support of American Express and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to public lands in their community, particularly in urban areas like Philadelphia.”

“The City of Philadelphia has many unique attributes that make it one of the best cities in America to experience the great outdoors,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “From the Fairmount Park system, the largest urban park in America; and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to iconic cultural institutions and America’s largest free, outdoor concert; to the Schuylkill River Trail and more pools per capita than any other large U.S. city, Philadelphia is an ideal place to celebrate America’s parks and public spaces. I’m honored that Philadelphia was selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in this national initiative.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don't always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Jon Agnew, Chief Operating Officer of the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA. “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities to deepen connections to these 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. This past March, 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. Philadelphia is the most recent addition to a coalition of 26 cities that will be announced in 2015. The remaining cities will be identified and announced in 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit:

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the President’s recently announced Every Kid in A Park initiative 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, and the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for next year’s centennial of the National Park System.

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