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Lawmakers, Private Groups Working To Get Vegas City Kids Outdoors


State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee, co-sponsored legislation giving fifth-graders and their families one-year passes to Nevada state parks.

There might be higher-profile political interest groups than fifth-graders, but legislation benefitting those young people and their families is moving briskly through the Nevada Legislature.

Assembly Bill 385, introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager of Las Vegas, would provide a one-year pass to Nevada’s state parks to fifth-graders and their families. The measure unanimously passed the Assembly and is being considered by the Senate, where it is before the Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Yvanna Cancela is chairwoman of the committee and is a co-sponsor of Yeager’s bill. The first-term Democrat said too many young people in her East Las Vegas district never get out from under the city streetlights.

“I think kids, just like their parents and families, who don’t get out of our urban centers, don’t get to explore the other parts of our state as much as they probably should, I’m guilty of that," Cancela said. 

Excursions out of town or making use of closer community parks and trails provide chances for families to connect and get children active, said Mauricia Baca, executive director of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation. Her group coordinates field trips for young people and has gotten 11,000 of them out of town in the last five years.

“I think one of the barriers is often people just don’t realize how many resources in terms of the outdoors,” Baca said.

She said offering students a free trip to a state park will "spotlight" all of the outdoor resources in Nevada and bring down another barrier: cost.

A good first step, Baca said, is downloading the Neon to Nature phone app, developed by the Southern Nevada Health District and available for iPhones and Android devices. The app lets users find Las Vegas-area parks and trails near where they are.

Peter Guzman is the head of the Latin Chamber of Commerce. He said while business and the great outdoors may not seem like a match. He said his group supports the bill because it goes to building a strong community.

“The more kids we have enjoying the great outdoors, the less they’re getting into bad things,” he said.

He said the effort by Outside Las Vegas and lawmakers will bring more families together. 

Yvanna Cancela, state senator; Mauricia Baca, Outside Las Vegas Foundation; Peter Guzman, Latin Chamber of Commerce​

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.