Fifteen Cities To Increase Regular Access to Nature for Children To Improve Their Health and Wellbeing


  • Vera Feeny
June 16, 2022 - (4 min read)

Washington, DC – Fifteen cities join a national peer network of 32 other cities working to increase access to nature for all children, regardless of race, income or ability. The National League of Cities (NLC) and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) recently selected 15 cities to participate in a peer learning community of practice to advance Early Childhood Nature Connection strategies. 

The new early childhood community of practice is part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative. Leaders from these 15 cities joined the national CCCN initiative to advance policies, programs, and infrastructure that equitably connect more young children to nature in their daily lives. The fifteen cities selected to join the initiative include: Boulder, CO; Imperial Beach, CA; Batesville, AR; Boise, ID; Detroit, MI; Doral, FL; Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Prescott, AZ; St. Louis, MO; Tallahassee, FL; Tucson, AZ; and White Salmon, WA. 

“We know that the first five years of life are crucial for children’s healthy development. Connecting young children to nature during 0 to five has many long-term benefits, such as improving physical and mental health, promoting connectedness with nature,  and preparing children for school,” said Andrew Moore, Director of Youth & Young Adult Connections at NLC. “By finding ways to bring equitable nature access to young children, these 15 cities will also help advance other city priorities related to health, school readiness, park expansion, and equity.” 

“The COVID pandemic showed how critical easily accessible, daily access to green space is for families and young children to thrive.” said Monica Lopez Magee, Senior Vice President, Cities and Community Engagement at C&NN. “These fifteen cities join a growing network of cities across the country that understand the value of nature and green space for all children. It’s an opportunity to tap into progress achieved by other cities and learn how the lessons can apply to them, so they too can expand equitable access to nature for young children in their city.”

With support from CCCN technical and national experts, city-led cross-sector teams involving Mayor’s office, parks and recreation departments, community-based organizations, libraries, early learning programs, and health departments will collaborate to bring equitable and regular access to natural spaces and nature-based programs for young children in areas of the cities that have traditionally lacked access to nature.

“Six of our city departments have been working together for two years to take a city-wide approach to deliver nature programs for children. We want to connect youth to nature in their own neighborhoods as well as give them the skills to reach the mountain tops.” said Mayor Aaron Brockett of Boulder, CO. “We envision a successful early childhood nature connection initiative for Boulder that may also serve as a model for others.”

“Connecting children with nature is crucial in Imperial Beach,” said Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, CA. “With support from CCCN, we look forward to building strategic partnerships that connect young children with the outdoors and provide access to education and recreation while creating a lifelong love of nature.”

The Early Childhood Nature Connection cohort will focus on creating programs, partnerships, policies, and infrastructure that help young children, regardless of race, income or ability, learn, play and grow with nature as a key part of their daily lives. This can include adding nature to outdoor spaces at early childhood centers, enhancing parks and public spaces with natural elements, adding nature-based programs to city facilities or expanding nature-based preschools. Cities will engage in regular peer learning opportunities and receive specialized assistance to achieve their specific goals. 

A key resource for cities is a toolkit published in April by CCCN. The toolkit includes a wide range of resources from peer-reviewed research to a state policy brief, to resources on the “pathways” that cities can take to incorporate nature into young children’s daily lives, all with a focus on equity.

For more information about the NLC project or the selected cities’ goals, contact


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) helps municipal leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth, and families in their communities. NLC launched the Institute in January 2000 in recognition of the unique and influential roles that mayors, city councilmembers and other local leaders play in strengthening families and improving outcomes for children and youth.