Louisville ECHO receives ‘Spotlight Award’

January 31, 2018
ECHO Canoemobile Family

Louisville Parks and Recreation has been selected to receive $25,000 as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (the Challenge) Spotlight Award. Ten winners and five honorable mentions were selected for their ability to address the need to improve opportunities for all Americans – regardless of income, education or ethnic background – to take an active role in healthy living.

Healthiest Cities Challenge Logo
Jefferson Memorial Forest, and its award-winning ECHO (Engaging Children Outdoors) has been highlighted as a Spotlight Award winner for identifying creative partnerships and enacting sustainable and replicable programs that address the unique health issues facing Louisville. The goal of Louisville ECHO is to create opportunities in west Louisville where every resident has access to a safe and healthy environment that increases physical activity, reduces stress, and leads to healthier lives through outdoor recreation and environmental education and stewardship.

boy with insect
Louisville ECHO began in 2008 with seed funding from the U.S. Forest Service to provide multiple nature experiences for 4th grade students at three Title I public schools in west Louisville. 

With Louisville Metro support; the continued support of the U.S. Forest Service; multi-sector partners such as the Metro Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness and YouthBuild Louisville; and funding partners, including the Aetna Foundation and Wilderness Louisville, Inc. Louisville ECHO has expanded to include multiple complementary components providing meaningful nature experiences for nearly 2,500 youth annually across multiple ages.

“On behalf of our staff and volunteers at Jefferson Memorial Forest, we thank the Aetna Foundation, APHA, and NaCo for this award in support our efforts to sustain and grow Louisville ECHO,” said Bennett Knox, parks administrator for Jefferson Memorial Forest.  “We appreciate this award as it recognizes multi-sector and multi-partner nature of Louisville ECHO whereby all involved are working towards the same goal of creating a healthier, more vibrant, community through access to nature within our urban core.”

ECHO Fire Building


Louisville ECHO is a grant-funded initiative to increase equitable opportunities for children, predominantly youth of color and youth from low-income backgrounds, to experience the outdoors.  It consists of multiple complementary components intended to create “cradle to career” (i.e., continual) opportunities for youth to experience nature. Current components include school-based field trips for elementary-age students, out-of-school time (OST) programming for youth age 3 to 16, and resume-building summer job opportunities for young adults age 16 to 21; and engaging community events such as the annual “Canoemobile.”

Based at Jefferson Memorial Forest, headquarters of Louisville Parks and Recreation’s Natural Areas Division, Louisville ECHO is the programmatic component of the Department’s West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI). WLORI seeks to create nearby-nature opportunities for west Louisville youth to experience nature and includes an infrastructure component to create enhanced amenities to facilitate growth of Louisville ECHO programming in west Louisville. This includes the creation of an outdoor learning center in Shawnee Park, the Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center. 

About Louisville Parks and Recreation:
Louisville Parks and Recreation, a nationally accredited parks and recreation agency, manages 120 parks and six parkways on more than 13,000 acres of land, and operates recreation programs for all ages. Its mission is to create a City of Parks where people can play, learn, grow and be healthy. The mission is accomplished by taking care of all parks properties and creating new ones, by providing safe and diverse recreational programs, and by protecting our public lands and resources for future generations. www.bestparksever.com