Georgia Mountains Children’s Forest Network Presented Award

Release Date: 

Contact(s): Steven Bekkerus, 770-297-3043

A partnership that includes the U.S. Forest Service was selected for an award at the 24th International Trails Symposium and Training Institute held in Syracuse, NY.

The Georgia Mountains Children’s Forest Network (CFN) received the Trail Promotion and Education Award to recognize innovative and successful strategies for promoting and increasing trail use and understanding. Five partner organizations collectively manage and support multiple program elements to enhance connection of young people in northern Georgia to the national forest.


Since 2015, the CFN has been connecting land managers, communities and non-profits to a wide-range of innovative programs that help stimulate an interest in the outdoors for young people across north Georgia. The network brought together an impressive crew of partners who were successfully engaging kids through a variety of individual efforts in partnership with the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. CFN brought them all together with a particular focus on addressing cultural and financial obstacles that prevent underrepresented youth from becoming engaged in outdoor experiences — by providing opportunities to explore the forests in their backyards, empowering teachers to connect with the outdoors and lead their students into the forest for meaningful, place-based learning experiences, and helping ensure the long-term health of our national forests by fostering an ethic of stewardship among young people.

Trail Promotion and Education Award
By enhancing and expanding successful programs offered through strong Forest Service partnerships, this Children’s Forest Network cultivates an understanding of public lands and fosters participation in the care of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and its surrounding lands and forests.

“After only a couple of years of working together, public and private partners in the Children’s Forest Network are achieving collective impact by placing a priority on equity, and seeking access for underrepresented youth to the outdoors,” says the ATC director of education and outreach Julie Judkins. “Social injustices affect those in urban and rural settings alike, including the opportunity to play, work, and be in the outdoors, and this partnership strives to remove barriers to those experiences. By hosting multiple facets and diverse program components outdoors, we hope to close the opportunity gap.”

Recognizing that regular, sustained interactions with nature – as well as with enthusiastic nature lovers – are key to building strong connections between young people and the outdoors, CFN partners work together to deliver opportunities to connect and share their passions, and also inspire and empower others to do the same.

"It’s an honor to work closely with these partners and see the work we do through their eyes. They have a strong sense of social justice, and we share the belief that helping bridge a connection to the outdoors for these young people is about more than just providing opportunities where there weren’t many … it’s about equity,” says Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests staff officer Judy Toppins. "There are profound physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual benefits to time spent in the outdoors, and every child deserves that experience. Every child has a right to it. We’re making powerful connections with these kids and relating to their fears and challenges. I believe that together with our many partners, we are changing lives."

Partners for the CFN include the Greening Youth Foundation, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center and the U.S. Forest Service. Since its inception, CFN has reached more than 30,000 young people through a range of programs.

American Trails presented the Advancing Trails Award as part of the Advancing Awards Program to recognize the tremendous contributions and successes of exemplary people across the globe who are working to advance trails. These awards are presented every two years during the International Trails Symposium and Training Institute.

Previously, the CFN partners and staff for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests were recognized by the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service when presented with the 2018 Regional Forester's Award for for Collaborative Partnerships and Engagement Group Award.




Regional Forester's Award for Collaborative Partnerships
and Engagement Group Award presented to the Children's
Forest Network of the Georgia Mountains and the
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.