With summer vacation right around the corner, many Quad-Cities parents are thinking ahead to family-friendly outings and activities. Should they go hiking in Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island? Attend an education event at Nahant Marsh or the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center? Clean out the garage and take the old acrylic paints and household cleaners to the Waste Commission of Scott County recycling facility?
One Q-C organization is encouraging families to say yes to all of the above — and get their “summer passports” stamped while they are at it. The Quad Cities Earth Coalition (QCEC) is sponsoring the Summer Passport program, now in its second year, with the hope that it inspires families to connect with many of the great activities and places that the Quad-Cities has to offer.
“We have such a range of organizations, parks, environmental education facilities and groups focused on sustainability,” says Ryan Merritt, community relations supervisor with Davenport Parks and Recreation, and a member of QCEC. “We’d love to have (families) bring their passports out to these places and maybe explore some places on both sides of the river they might not get to otherwise.”
Launched in 2018, the Summer Passport program was modeled after similar initiatives in other parts of the country but designed to focus exclusively on the Quad-Cities. Some participating locations such as Fejervary Park had riddles and clues to direct participants to places where they could get their passport stamped. At others, such as cleanup events organized by Davenport Public Works, stamps were given for participating in activities. Merritt estimates several hundred Quad-Cities youth participated in the program.
This year, organizers aimed to make the program even easier for youth and families. Rather than visiting all the sites in order to qualify for prizes, participants this year get a reward each time they get their passports stamped. The hope is to grow the program so thousands more families participate.
Families can also get credit for attending the same event multiple times. If, for example, participants attend more than one Family Fun Day at Fejervary Park in Davenport (held every third Saturday of the month throughout the summer), they can get their passport stamped each time and qualify for multiple rewards.
“We definitely want it to be as fun and easy for families as possible to get out to these places and get multiple stamps,” says Merritt.
The first stamp on each passport this year earns a special carrying case and lanyard, the second stamp earns a patch that can be worn on a backpack or jacket, and every stamp from the third onward gets the participants registered in a “grand prize” drawing for prizes such as vouchers for recreational activities, including ice skating or an overnight stay at the Wapsi River Center.
The passports are printed on the back cover of all the summer activity guides for Davenport Parks and Recreation and can also be found online at qcearth.org/summerpassport. The website also lists locations where passports can be stamped and details some of the prizes available through the drawing at the end of the summer.
The 2019 program, which officially kicked off on Earth Day this year, runs through Labor Day weekend. Families can begin participating at any time throughout the summer.
The program grew out of the QCEC mission to help citizens understand their personal responsibility in creating a sustainable environment through environmental education and activities. In the past, QCEC helped organize and run the Quad Cities Earth Week event. When that event was disbanded, the group started looking for new educational and outreach opportunities. The Summer Passport program was developed to reach the youngest Quad-Citizens.
QCEC organizers hope the program fosters both a sense of the value of the natural and recreational areas throughout our area as well as an awareness of the many different ways residents can get involved to help grow sustainability in our area.
“It’s about reaching families and younger members of the community and connecting them with resources and with the member organizations of the Quad Cities Earth Coalition,” says Merritt.
Member organizations of QCEC include area agencies and organizations with a connection to environmental stewardship. A complete list of members can be found at qcearth.org.