Young Explorers Passport to Adventure

When our friend Kevin Sylvester, Executive Director of Family Promise of Gallatin Valley, a transitional shelter program for homeless families, approached us about the lack of outdoor and trail experience among his program’s clients, we knew we needed to help.

The Family Promise Day Center is located across the street from Bozeman’s most iconic trail and park, Burke Park (also known as Peets Hill).  Despite the proximity to the park, Family Promise clients were never getting outside.  Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising.

Research has found that low income families in particular are less likely to use and access public parks and trails.  Simply helping people understand where to park, where to walk, and what to expect on a trail experience can greatly increase their comfort and confidence while exploring outdoors. In such an outdoorsy place like Bozeman, we can forget that some people didn’t grow up climbing mountain peaks and may need ‘Trails 101’ to feel safe navigating with their family. “Our main goal at Family Promise is to create sustainable solutions for homeless families in our Valley, and a large part of that is supporting families in building a community,” says Sylvester. “Many of the families we serve have never been exposed to outdoor recreation. Bozeman’s trail system helps build a sense of responsibility and promotes healthy family interaction. We wanted a way to encourage families to take advantage of Bozeman’s outdoors while living on a limited income.”

So we partnered with  Family Promise  on a unique project to help remove barriers that keep families from getting outside. The project is the Young Explorers Passport to Adventure, a self-guided tour of activities and an introduction to the Main Street to the Mountains trail system. The 14-page booklet mimics a real passport and includes both a trail map of the Main Street to the Mountains system and a Streamline bus system for transportation to trailheads. The passport features 5 different parks and trails in town. Each trail page has a number of activities that the young adventurer must complete in order to accomplish “Peets Hill Pioneer” or “Gallagator Crusader” status.  Nothing motivates kids more than a prize like a nerf gun so they’re eligible for rewards when they complete various numbers of pages in their passport.

The activities in the book are fun, first and foremost. But they also encourage kids to look around and engage with their surroundings. Trails are not simply gravel paths, they can be educational, inspiring, relaxing, and active places for kids to develop and grow. The passport is a great tool for parents who are seeking structured ways to start exploring the trails with their kids.

Family Promise and GVLT have distributed passports to local nonprofits who serve families.  Groups such as Thrive, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, YMCA, and HAVEN will be giving passports to children in their programs.  Bozeman is lucky to have such a breadth of accessible trails right in our backyard. Most of the Main Street to the Mountains trail system is easy and great for beginner explorers. This passport gives children a window into a world they can explore, regardless of income.

The passport is currently being distributed only through partner nonprofits but can be downloaded for print here.