Parks and Trails for Health – PATH – is a new initiative designed to encourage physical activity in North Carolina’s parks, greenways, and other outdoor spaces. PATH connects people to nature by promoting physical activity, fostering an appreciation for the life-sustaining role of parks and natural areas, promoting diverse experiences and voices in the outdoors, and helping people lead healthier and happier lives.

The online campaign will highlight places and programs that can help North Carolinians improve their health and wellbeing by connecting with nature. It will also feature virtual activities and educational series focused on diverse voices in the outdoors, and careers in recreation and natural resource protection.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led North Carolinians to spend more time outdoors as a healthy and safe option for recreation, physical fitness and entertainment,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “PATH — Parks and Trails for Health — aims to help connect all people to parks and outdoor spaces across the state.”

The campaign is part of a broader agency initiative to expand outdoor recreation opportunities that improve physical and mental health, use state and local parks for outdoor learning experiences, and provide open space resources to diverse communities.

To achieve these goals, the department is focused on adding and improving trails and other outdoor facilities at state-owned sites and in partnership with local governments, providing outdoor educational opportunities for all North Carolina children, investing in maintenance and staffing at state parks and trails to ensure a high-quality visitor experience, and supporting the outdoor recreation industry.

North Carolina is currently nationally ranked in the bottom third of many health measures and 35th in the country for overall health status according to America's Health Rankings. Over the past two decades, North Carolina has ranked in, or close to, the bottom third of all states for many major health indicators, including but not limited to obesity, smoking, premature death, infant mortality, and cardiovascular death.

By promoting parks and trails as a health resource, the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources aims to bring about lasting change in North Carolinians’ lifestyle choices and their relationship with nature and the outdoors.