April 20, 2023 -- The City of Houston has become the fifth and largest city in the United States to adopt a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (COBOR) to ensure full opportunity for children to access nature. The City of Houston celebrated the adoption of the COBOR on April 18, 2023, with a mayoral proclamation by Mayor Turner.
As the fourth most populous city in the country, the City of Houston is mindful of its responsibility to lead the way in improving the well-being of children and increasing their access to nature. Developed by the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative, a national partnership between the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network, and led by the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement, the Houston COBOR aligns with the city’s commitment to recognize children's rights. The City of Houston has also adopted the Children’s Bill of Rights in Sports and has recently been designated the first city in the United States as a candidate for the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative. Increasing access to the many proven benefits of nature for young Houstonians is also included in Resilient Houston, the City’s comprehensive resilience strategy.
“Houston is proud to be an inclusive and equitable city focused on protecting and enhancing the rights of our most treasured asset, our children and future leaders,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are proud to implement the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights in Houston, as it illustrates what equitable access to nature looks like, and will produce benefits needed for young people to thrive and learn.”
The bill includes a list of outdoor experiences and activities each Houston child has the right to:
1. Safe and accessible routes to outdoor spaces in their communities.
2. Adequate shade outdoors.
3. Connect with nature on their school grounds.
4. Equitably funded public parks regardless of zip code.
5. Discover leadership opportunities to be stewards of nature.
6. Be included and accommodated with accessible outdoor environments.
7. Green spaces that mitigate the impact of climate change.
8. Experience the mental health and holistic wellness benefits of engaging with nature.
9. See and experience native wildlife and plants in their local park and green spaces.
10. Free or low-cost outdoor programming.
11. Breathe fresh and clean air.
12. Learn how to be safe in the outdoors.
An intergenerational committee of local youth and community leaders convened to discuss the priority issue areas impacting nature accessibility in the Greater Houston area and determined the rights that would be included in the bill. The inclusion of youth in the committee aligns with the COBOR’s fifth right. “I hope the Houston COBOR can lead to more youth engagement and prompt youth to get more active in our society,” said Samiaht Busari, youth committee member. “When youth see changes happening, they are more likely to get involved themselves.”
“Equitable access to nature, and its many benefits, is critical to the mental, physical, civic, and cultural wellbeing of children,” said Jaime Gonzalez, the Healthy Communities Director of The Nature Conservancy in Texas and committee member. “The Houston Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights will help ignite conversations and actions to help us co-create a city where nature and children flourish together.”
For additional information on this initiative, please contact Fernanda Marrero Hi, Youth Engagement Manager at the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement: Fernanda.Marrero@houstontx.gov.
About the Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement
Public education is a human right, the great social equalizer, and a key to a prosperous community. Mayor Sylvester Turner believes that each generation of children should be assured a better life and education. Through collaboration, communication, and coordination, the Mayor’s Office of Education strives to ensure this goal for all families in Houston by promoting access to equitable education and opportunities.