Bipartisan bill would improve parks in urban communities
WASHINGTON, September 27, 2019 ----- Applauding efforts to help more people visit the nation’s parks and public lands, The Wilderness Society strongly endorses the Outdoors for All Act, introduced today by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio). A Senate companion bill, S. 1458, was introduced earlier this year by Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
The Outdoors for All Act would dedicate a mandatory source of funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) to increase access to outdoor recreation opportunities by prioritizing projects that empower underserved communities, provide job-training to youth and reconnect people to the outdoors in cities and towns. ORLP has been sporadically funded in recent years, which is why mandatory funding is so important for this program.
ORLP is funded through the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to towns and cities with 50,000 or more residents to create or improve local parks and recreational opportunities.
Statement by Yvette Lopez-Ledesma, Wilderness Society Urban to Wild Assistant Director
“Access to parks and green spaces is not equitable. Many underserved communities don’t live near a quality park and are deprived of the benefits that nature provides. The Outdoors for All Act will address these inequities through the creation and improvement of parks, especially in neighborhoods that lack green spaces.”
Outdoor recreation and parks provide multiple health, social, environmental, and economic benefits. As cities become more densely populated, outdoor recreation opportunities have failed to sustain city growth. Currently, one in three Americans do not live within a half-mile or 10-minute walk of a quality park. This limits the ability for kids and communities to grow up experiencing the outdoors and all of the benefits it provides.
The most economically sound cities are those with ample, accessible healthy parks and open spaces. In 2015, local parks in the United States generated more than $154 billion in economic activity and supported 1.1 million jobs. This legislation would help to create and improve parks and outdoor recreation opportunities -- without spending taxpayer dollars.
Communities and children living near parks have greater opportunities to be physically active by running, walking or participating in other recreational activities. Access to the outdoors helps promote healthy and active lifestyles while combating the problem that one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
This bill will address outdoor recreation deficits by creating mandatory funding to ORLP to ensure that as our cities and urban areas continue to grow, there will be outdoor recreation opportunities and healthy communities. ORLP grants help urban communities and densely populated communities to create new outdoor recreations areas, improve existing parks, and reconnect people to the outdoors.
More on the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP):
Established by Congress in 2014 and administered by the National Park Service, the ORLP is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State and Local Assistance Program. ORLP is a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to urban areas of 50,000 or more residents – with priority given to projects in underserved areas and communities that lack parks.
The ORLP program seeks to create and expand outdoor recreation in areas with the greatest needs. These grants help create and improve state and locally owned parks and other outdoor recreation areas in ways that will help the public access or re-connect with the outdoors. Since 2014, over $16 million in ORLP grants have been awarded to 30 communities hoping to improve close-to-home access to the outdoors.
The following organizations have endorsed this bill:
Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, The Trust for Public Land, National Recreation and Parks Association, City Parks Alliance, American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, Outdoors for Kids Alliance, Vet Voice Foundation, America Walks, League of Conservation Voters, Green Latinos, Sierra Club, National League of Cities, American Hiking Society, The Nature Conservancy, Outdoor Afro, Outdoor Industry Association, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Hispanic Access Foundation, The Wilderness Society, and American Forests.