Suffolk County officials are encouraging kids to quit their computers this summer and check out local parks.
Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) Thursday announced the county’s new “Parks Passport” program, in which children are challenged to collect badges by visiting 25 local parks. Hahn said the program was “designed to get kids out of the house this summer and into our parks.”
“I’m confident that kids are going to love it, and when they love something they want to do it again and again and again and again,” Hahn, accompanied by her 10-year-old daughter and local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, said at a news conference at Old Field Farm County Park in Setauket. “You make a game out of it, collecting badges whenever you visit.”
The passport program includes state, county, Brookhaven Town and Port Jefferson Village parks, and two privately-owned parks. For now, the program only includes parks in Hahn’s northern Brookhaven district. She hopes to eventually expand it countywide.
Children may obtain passports with green covers — designed to resemble official United States passports — from Hahn’s office or the county website, suffolkcountyny.gov. Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright said she also would distribute them.
Children will be challenged to find signs in each park and use smartphones to scan or enter the web addresses or QR codes on those signs. They can then go home, download the codes or addresses and print out badges, which are then pasted in their passports.
Hahn said the program might also introduce residents to little-known parks they have never visited.
“I’m always surprised that so many people don’t know about some of our wonderful treasures,” she said. “We have some of the most beautiful parks in the United States.”
Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant recalled last year’s Pokemon Go craze and hoped that the passport program would be just as popular.
“We had the invasion of Pokemon last year,” she said. “We hope to see the invasion of the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts and girls and boys and their parents this year.”