Thirty-five miles south of the Capitol, just west of Interstate 95 and its infernal traffic, is a quiet, oft-overlooked swath of green — a national park founded during the Great Depression to give city kids an escape into nature.
For decades, it served that purpose. But sometime in the 1980s, the children stopped coming, and since then — save for the occasional church group or scout troop — the park’s rough-hewn cabins and dining halls have sat mostly empty.
Now that could change.
NatureBridge, a California-based nonprofit organization that runs three- to five-day environmental education programs in some of the West’s most iconic parks, wants to turn this place — Prince William Forest Park, one of the largest green spaces in the Washington area — into an outdoor classroom for local students.
The organization is running a pilot program this month with two groups of middle-school students from Prince William County. If it goes well, the park could return full time to its roots as a place for kids to learn about — and enjoy — the natural world.
“This is a test of local demand and support, and we’re hopeful that the community will really rally around it,” said Vanessa Morel, NatureBridge’s D.C. director.