Everything You Should Know About the Outdoors for All Act
According to the most recent data available, around one in three people in the United States don’t have access to a public outdoor space, like a park, within a half-mile radius of their home. This disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods and non-white communities. In an effort to combat this fact and stimulate the development of safe outdoor spaces for children and families, Senators Alex Padilla and Susan Collins have proposed the Outdoors for All Act. This act was initially proposed in 2021, and then re-introduced in the Senate in 2023, and seeks to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation for urban and low-income members of communities across the United States. Here’s everything you should know about the Outdoors for All Act.
Goal of the Outdoors For All Act
One major goal of the Outdoors for All Act is to establish the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) into federal law, thus guaranteeing future funding. The ORLP supports and funds the establishment of parks in urban, underserved communities across the United States. Another primary goal of the bill is to counteract the effects of climate change by creating more easily accessible, safe urban parks that contribute to clean air, shade and tree cover, and job creation. Finally, the impetus for the proposal of the bill is to provide a safe outdoor space for underserved communities, non-white communities, children, and others who don’t have a park or outdoor recreation area within walking distance. This bipartisan legislation aims to make it easier for people to play, exercise, socialize, and otherwise spend time outdoors.
Supporters of the Proposed Act
Since the initial bill was proposed in 2021, hundreds of organizations, businesses, and individuals have voiced their support. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
American Heart Association
American Hiking Society
American Society of Landscape Architects
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
California Outdoor Recreation Partnership
City Parks Alliance
Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association
Continental Divide Trail Coalition
David Brower Center
East Coast Greenway Alliance
Fairmount Park Conservancy
Hispanic Access Foundation
League of Conservation Voters
Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust
National League of Cities
National Recreation and Park Association
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Areas Conservancy
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Nature for All
Outdoors Alliance for Kids
Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society
Portland Parks Conservancy
San Diego Mountain Biking Association
Seattle Parks Foundation
The American Alpine Club
The National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers (NASORLO)
The Venture Out Project
The Wilderness Society
The Trust For Public Land
YMCA of the USA
Youth Transportation Organization (Yoots)
Why the Bill is Needed
Across the country, nearly 100 million people (of which 28 million are children), don’t have access to a city park or safe outdoor space within half a mile from their home. A recent report by the Trust for Public Land found that in the 100 most populated cities and neighborhoods where the largest number of residents are non-white, they have 44% less public park acreage than exists in majority white neighborhoods. This trend continues in other low-income and non-white neighborhoods across the country. This establishes a significant need for equitable access to parks and public spaces, which could be achieved with investment in the planning and creation of public parks.
How the Bill Can Help Low-Income Communities
The Outdoors for All Act seeks to codify and create an established funding source for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, established by Congress in 2014. The ORLP is overseen by the National Park Service (NPS) and currently is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is a nationally competitive grant program that aims to increase access to the outdoors for members of disadvantaged communities. The LWCF has strong bipartisan support and receives mandatory funding; however, the ORLP is a discretionary grant program.
This means that its funding is not guaranteed, and so the underserved communities it strives to invest in are still not getting the support they need. By creating dedicated funding for the ORLP, this creates funding for new trails, playgrounds, parks and recreation departments and associated activities, cultural gathering spaces, green spaces, and more. Additionally, this bill will also invest in open spaces and public parks in high-population communities in which 80% of Americans live. All urban areas with a population of 30,000 or more are eligible to apply for grants. This includes Alaska Native, Native American, and Native Hawaiian communities.
Benefits of Increasing Equitable Access to Outdoor Recreation
By increasing equitable access to outdoor recreation across the country, particularly to communities that are currently underserved, we’re creating a healthier way of life for all Americans. Easy access to outdoor recreation, outdoor activities, and safe outdoor spaces can significantly improve physical and mental health. Other notable benefits of passing the Outdoors for All Act include:
- The creation of more public parks – The Outdoors for All Act would fund and staff new parks in communities across the country, potentially benefiting over 33 million people. Because outdoor spaces improve mental and physical health and overall wellbeing, plus encourage economic growth, they can significantly improve each community. Public parks can even encourage younger generations to appreciate and care for outdoor spaces and the environment.
- Maintenance and support for existing parks – In addition to creating new parks, the Outdoors for All Act will improve existing parks. It creates additional funding that can build new playgrounds, plant more trees, and provide more staff to keep the park clean and safe.
- Improved air and water quality – The bill also provides funding to communities for the express purpose of improving water and air quality. Plus, planting more trees and creating more green spaces also improves air quality as well. Public parks can reduce stormwater runoff, which in turn helps city sewer systems function more efficiently, reduces toxic pollutants from infiltrating nearby waters, and fights erosion.
- Another way to combat climate change – Public parks and green spaces offer cooling benefits to nearby communities. They also combat the urban heat island effect, which is caused by an overabundance of paved surfaces that radiate heat absorbed throughout the day.
- Investment in underserved communities and children – Finally, more public parks mean providing help to underserved communities and children in need. Public parks in walkable distance from low-income communities create a safe place for children to play, socialize, get fresh air, and get out of the house.
Keep Reading Our Blog to Stay On Top of Outdoor Recreation News
If you want to stay on top of the latest outdoor recreation news, trends, opportunities, and analyses, then keep reading our blog at Advanced Outdoor Solutions. At Advanced Outdoor Solutions, we research, analyze, and present the latest trends and data in outdoor activities so that you can stay up-to-date on the latest trends and data that impact your business.
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