By Julianne Gagnon

This article is part of our Generation Wild Storytelling series to give you an inside look at the work being done on the ground in Generation Wild communities–straight from the perspectives of the rockstars involved.

Julianne is the Education Director at The Greenway Foundation, a partner organization in the Generation Wild My Outdoor Colorado coalition, which delivers outdoor programs to families in Denver's Cole and Westwood neighborhoods. She studied Environmental Studies, Spanish, and Graphic Design at a St. Louis, Missouri college. Over her 8+ years at The Greenway Foundation, she has filled a variety of roles at South Platte River Environmental Education (SPREE), including seasonal educator and youth programs coordinator. She enjoys trail running and sharing too many facts about Colorado plants and animals. 

Through the simple act of bringing families together outside, our communities are strengthened and we develop a deep appreciation for nature--even in the city!

Kids hoola hooping in a green field with tents in the background.

Every summer, partners in the My Outdoor Colorado (MOC) coalition, including The Greenway Foundation’s (TGF) South Platte River Environmental Education (SPREE), the Westwood Family Nature Club, and the Cole Family Nature Club, come together to offer families an unforgettable overnight camping experience at Johnson Habitat Park.

The park is nestled in the heart of Denver on the banks of the South Platte River, less than a 10-minute drive from Westwood. Recently enhanced and expanded, it’s one of the city’s premier outdoor learning spaces. It features nature play and environmental education elements, river access, native vegetation, and fantastic wildlife viewing.

Two brothers eating s'mores outside.

Many Denver families don’t have the luxury of spending a weekend in the mountains, or they don’t own the proper outdoor gear to hike, camp, or cook outdoors. MOC programs like the Family Campout  aim to bridge the gap between urban life and the great outdoors, allowing families to experience nature in a familiar setting without leaving the city limits.

The annual event is a great opportunity for both new and experienced campers, and every aspect is designed to make sure participants feel comfortable. Transportation is offered for those who need it and the Westwood Gear Library provides free gear that’s ready at the park when families arrive. SPREE educators also facilitate activities in both English and Spanish.

Three people kneeling by a river investigating something from the water.

Last summer, families arrived at the park in the afternoon and collected their camping gear–tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and headlamps. They were shown how to set up their tents and got all of their gear ready for the night. Then, everyone joined together for an opening circle led by Westwood Community Connector Mary Reyes, allowing families to get to know each other. During free time, participants played lawn games, kids explored with a park scavenger hunt, nets were used to catch ladybugs and grasshoppers, and some folks went down to the river to dip their toes in the water and cool off. Hot dogs were cooked over the fire for dinner followed by s’mores. Everyone enjoyed their night sleeping under the stars. The next morning, after everyone’s gear was packed up, the families enjoyed bagels for breakfast.

People preparing food outside by a river.

More than just roasting marshmallows and catching crawdads in the river, these events at Johnson Habitat Park bring communities together. Some families come year after year to connect over their shared interests and experiences, and lifelong memories are made. Through the combined efforts of the partner organizations, the community grows in connection with nearby nature and with each other.

Want to learn more? Reach out to Robyn Dunne at