I remember when my parents sent my siblings and I outside to play every day of summer vacation. There was no staying in the house, watching any of the three television channels we got.

No, outdoor play was mandatory – end of story. I could take a book outside, if I hid it under my shirt.

We didn’t go to many parks. But we had regular visits to the forests and nearby creeks and rivers. We explored the Simcoe Hills above Goldendale on the weekends when Dad made his excursions to gather winter fuel supplies.

I know there are many children who have never had the opportunity to wander through the trees, get sap on their clothes or feel the sting of nettles. It’s a shame, and as they say – “something needs to be done about that.”

Well, last week, Governor Jay Inslee did do something. He approved $1.3 million to get kids outside. The kids impacted by the funding are low-income kids, who might otherwise not be exposed to the great outdoors.

The Governor’s “No Child Left Inside” grants focus on programs that provide outdoor education and recreation for underserved youth.

While I never considered following trails around Old Gray back as hiking, I suppose it was. Hiking is just one of the outdoor activities the NCLI will fund, that as well as kayaking and rock climbing.

It’s a wonderful idea, because I know that are plenty of children who have never had had one of those adventures. Many kids don’t get to go beyond the city limits of the towns where they live. That scenario is true even for children living in Sunnyside.

The Abercrombie kids’ outdoor education came from mistakes in dealing with overturned logs or wandering too close to patches of poison oak. I don’t think the NCLI programs will expose kids to dangers, but that is part of nature walks.

Doing things outdoors does spark the imagination. The answers to the “what if” and “why does that happen” questions are often found outdoors in the fresh air while walking along trails or riding horseback.

So, if the Yakima County’s only recipient - the Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic, for example, gets $43,510 of the NCLI grant money to send children to camps, I applaud that effort.

The funds are generated in state’s general fund, as one result of the Governor’s 2014 Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outside Recreation and across the state, it is helping children to learn more about their surroundings.

Granted, much of my childhood outdoor activities included some type of work and not much playing. Still, I learned to respect the outdoor environment and that remains a lesson well learnt.

It’s also a good lesson for all children.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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