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4 C’s of outdoor recreation: the mission-critical roles of local & county parks

by Jaro Horvath, outdoor partnerships lead at NIC Outdoors, now a part of Tyler Technologies

While working on a project for an NIC Outdoors partner, one of my colleagues said: “I love working on these projects, but I wish I was outdoorsy. I am not outdoorsy.”“What do you mean?” I asked. “Don’t you walk in nature, hike, explore your local parks? You’ve told me you do, right?”

“Yes, I do, of course …” Lydia replied, when I interrupted her with a joyous shout out: “You are outdoorsy!!!”.

For years, the outdoor recreation and adventure industry and many “outdoorsy” people have somehow managed to intimidate the masses with campfire bragging rights were earned by stories of people who do things like backpacking, backcountry hiking/skiing, canyoneering, climbing Kilimanjaro – you know, the “epic” stuff.  It took me being an outdoor adventure guide to realize what a ridiculous attitude this was. Certainly, backpacking Yosemite, climbing Kili or rafting the Zambizi river while counting crocs are adventures of a lifetime. Yet it’s so far removed from the reality of what being “outdoorsy” means. Being outdoorsy is so much more broad, diverse – and available to all!

When and where was the first time you were in awe of nature and the great outdoors?

My awe of the great outdoors started long before my first big outdoor gear purchase – in a small town in my native Czechoslovakia – as a young boy during neighborhood bike rides with my parents to a local lake preserve to look for critters. Or walks in a local park where I could not comprehend that even five people holding hands together could not fully embrace a monster tree, a fortress to an amazing array of wildlife.

I have been very active in the outdoors ever since, whether on foot, on wheels, or in water. With some epic experiences already checked off and others still on the bucket list, most of my activities today are local or weekend-warrior-like. Whether or not I ever climb Kilimanjaro or go on another momentous trip, I am outdoorsy and so are you! And I have my experiences in local parks to thank for the first amazing contact with nature which fueled my curiosity, built my confidence, and opened me to a lifetime of camaraderie with people of all walks of life, backgrounds, abilities, and interests.

Local and county parks, trails and preserves play a mission-critical role in making the great outdoors accessible to all via my 4 C’s of outdoor recreation:

Local parks, trails, and preserves make the great outdoors more accessible. They bring nature closer to us. Many agencies, recreation, and open space departments today are doing a great job modernizing interaction with citizens via well-designed websites, social media channels, and digital passes like NIC’s YourPassNow. According to, 97% of Americans have a mobile phone, so making the first contact with nature, being informed, and prepared are only a few clicks away.

Today there are more and more programs, interpretive hikes, wildlife viewing opportunities, or star-gazing hikes (many of them free!) offered by local or county park rangers. Many outfitters or clubs are offering beginner stand-up paddling, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, wilderness medicine classes, and many others. These are incredible! What a way to fuel the curiosity and appreciation of the great outdoors for generations to come … and to build confidence.

All of us have friends who go from 0 to 100mph or from the couch to hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim. Right? C’mon, what are their names? I love them and admire their gusto, yet often a more gradual stair-step approach is a better, safer way to go, plus a more enjoyable experience. And yes, local and regional parks, trails, preserves, and the programs they offer, are the perfect place to connect with nature, fuel our curiosity, and build confidence.

The impact of nature on our brain and overall being is undeniable. There is plenty of research on the topic you can find. Doctors in Japan, for example, are prescribing “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, as an antidote to hectic urban life. Nature seems to be a great equalizer that brings us brings us closer together. It is a beautiful thing to see the intermingling of outdoors veterans with newbies on the trails I frequent – whether helping with directions, making sure a newbie family has enough water on a hot day, or helping to repair a flat mountain bike tire. Let’s bring this camaraderie back to our more stressful and tense daily lives!

I have my local park to thank for amazing outdoors journey in my life so far. And thank you NACPRO for bringing this amazing community together!

  • What do you think? Am I too generous, or are many people more outdoorsy than they realize?
  • When and where was the first time you were in awe of the great outdoors?
  • What are other things that your park, trail, preserve is doing that I may have missed?

Thanks for reading, sharing your thoughts and, as I always say –

Get outside.
Have fun.
Do good.

Jaro Horvath is an Outdoor Partnerships Lead at NIC Outdoors – an adventurer, athlete, and weekend-warrior all in one, passionate about connecting outdoors and technology to support outdoor recreation agencies and help fellow citizens enjoy the great outdoors. He can be reached at

About NIC Outdoors

NIC has 21 years of experience in outdoor licensing solutions across 11 states, in addition to extensive expertise in managing digital government services and secure payment processing for government.

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