This year marks the 20th anniversary of Trails Challenge, East Bay Regional Park District's program encouraging people to get out and explore the close-to-home parklands of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Last year, more than 10,000 people participated. The idea is to complete five of the featured trails by next Dec. 1, whether on foot, bicycle or horseback, to receive a commemorative pin. Trails vary from easy to difficult, and several are accessible by wheelchair. In other words, there's something for everyone.

Required registration opens on Wednesday, Jan. 16, and must be accomplished online. There's no phone registration available. With registration, you get instructions on how to download the Trails Challenge guidebook and other program materials. You also receive a free Trails Challenge T-shirt while supplies last. Commemorative pins are mailed in the fall to those who complete the challenge, again while supplies last. Hard copies of the guidebook are available for $10, including shipping costs.

To register for the challenge or obtain more information, visit www.regionalparksfoundation.org and click on "Events". Besides the foundation, Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization is a major sponsor of the Trails Challenge.


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Another incentive to explore the regional parks is Kids Challenge. It's based on the California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights, which recommends a list of experiences that every child should have in his or her pre-high school years.

Examples include exploring nature, learning to swim, going fishing, and camping out under the stars. Not surprisingly, all of the recommended activities are available in the regional parks.

Like the Trails Challenge, the Kids Challenge is self-paced. It challenges kids to complete five of the ten activities listed in the bill. Some of the activities require parent participation and/or additional fees.

Registration gets you a guidebook and a special prize (one per child while supplies last). After completing the challenge, each child receives a commemorative patch and park district Frisbee, while supplies last.

To register in the Kids Challenge, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1105.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.