Louisville ECHO Receives Major Funding

September 9, 2014

Children Jumping

Support comes from U.S. Forest Service
and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.

Environmental education program ties nature-based activities with elementary school curriculum and provides out-of-school time outdoor recreational opportunities.

The Louisville ECHO program (Louisville is Engaging CHildren Outdoors), Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation’s signature environmental education initiative for fourth-grade students, has received significant support this year with $41,295 in grant funding from the U.S. Forest Service, and $7,500 Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.

Louisville ECHO was initiated in 2008 with seed funding from the U.S. Forest Service as part of their national “More Kids in the Woods” initiative. Managed by the Natural Areas Division of Metro Parks based at Jefferson Memorial Forest (JMF), the program provides fourth grade students at area elementary schools with multiple field experiences in local parks, the Forest, other natural areas, and the Red River Gorge National Geological Area with activities closely tied to school curriculum. 

Late last year, the Forest Service awarded a second national grant of $21,295 to add an outdoor recreational component whereby JMF staff provides out-of-school time outdoor recreational opportunities to Metro Parks’ community centers.  This summer, the Regional Forest Service office in Atlanta provided an additional $20,000 grant to help extend the entire program through 2015.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. is also a longtime ECHO supporter, allowing the program to expand to a total of five schools served, with three of those located in west Louisville.  Earlier this year, Toyota provided an additional $7,500 in funding for the program via the Louisville Metro Parks Foundation, bringing total contributions since 2009 to $32,500.

“At Toyota, contributing to programs that focus on education remains a top priority for us,” said Wil James, President, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. “We believe that investing in education is key to ensuring a bright future for the next generation, and it’s why we’re honored to continue our support the ECHO initiative.”

Louisville ECHO has become an integral part of the fourth-grade curriculum for Jefferson County Public Schools’ environmental magnet schools, Portland Elementary and Cane Run Elementary, as well as Young, Coral Ridge and Chenoweth Elementary.  The program provides six local field experiences, and culminates with a trip to the Daniel Boone National Forest at Red River Gorge. 

“It’s such a pleasure to see the excitement on students’ faces when they visit the forest for the first time, and especially when they wade into the creek to catch their first crayfish,” said Ranger Dave Manner, U.S. Forest Service, Cumberland Ranger District. “These new learning experiences help shape their future interests and provide lasting memories.”

The support received from the U.S. Forest Service and Toyota is central to Metro Parks’ efforts to extend nature-based programming in the community, particularly in west Louisville.   

“Louisville ECHO is an important part of Metro Parks’ overall mission in the community as we seek to introduce a new generation children and young adults to the wonders of the great outdoors,” said Bennett Knox, Jefferson Memorial Forest Administrator. “In the process we are contributing to Mayor Fischer’s efforts to improve education, health and wellness, and overall sustainability in Louisville.”

About Louisville ECHO:
Louisville ECHO is a partnership between Jefferson Memorial Forest, the U.S. Forest Service, and Jefferson County Public Schools. In addition to funding support from the U.S. Forest Service and Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky, it has also been supported in the past by Louisville Metro Council members including Vicki Aubrey Welch, Tina Ward-Pugh, Cheri Bryant Hamilton, and Mary C. Wooldridge as well as through funding support from Dawn Foods and Youth Works.  Special thanks to the Louisville Metro Parks Foundation for accepting donations on behalf of the program since 2009.  As of July 2014, fundraising responsibility for Louisville ECHO, has been assumed by Wilderness Louisville, Inc., the newly established 501c3 non-profit supporting Jefferson Memorial Forest.