U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) re-introduced the Outdoors for All Act, legislation that would expand outdoor recreational opportunities in urban and low-income communities across the nation. This bipartisan bill is being led by Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.-44) and Congressman Mike Turner (R-Ohio-10) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Outdoors for All Act codifies the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program in federal law and ensures that funding will go towards the communities without adequate access to local parks. As our cities grow and the effects of climate change intensify, the Outdoors For All Act would allow for equitable access to the benefits of local parks—from job creation, to shade and tree cover, to clean air. ORLP improves and funds new trails, green spaces, playgrounds, cultural gathering spaces, and more, bringing nature’s benefits to urban residents’ doorsteps.
“Having grown up in Los Angeles, I’ve experienced how people living in cities often lack adequate park space, an injustice that negatively impacts our communities and our environment,” said Senator Padilla. “The Outdoors for All Act would invest in new parks and open spaces—and upgrade existing ones—to bring nature’s benefits to urban residents’ doorsteps. Improving park access will provide benefits like shade, tree cover, and clean air that are critical as we grapple with the intensifying effects of the climate crisis. Everyone deserves access to our outdoor public spaces regardless of zip code.”
“Our state is fortunate to have abundant natural resources that allow Mainers and visitors to enjoy our pristine environment,” said Senator Collins. “However, many Americans, particularly those living in urban and low-income areas, lack access to outdoor green spaces that give them the ability to experience the beauty of nature close to home. The bipartisan Outdoors for All Act would invest in these communities to support parks, playgrounds, trails, and other projects to help ensure Americans have outdoor recreation opportunities.”
“Far too many low-income communities and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the country lack access to a nearby park or green space. Green spaces are crucial for the health and wellbeing of our communities. They reduce air and water pollution, and help to cool our cities. By preserving the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, we will provide much needed urban parks funding for underserved communities throughout our country,” Congresswoman Barragán said.
“Local parks serve our communities by providing residents a safe outdoor space to gather, play, exercise, and relax. I am proud to again lead the bipartisan, bicameral Outdoors for All Act, which will protect and enhance opportunities for families in my district to get outside and enjoy the great recreational spaces that the Dayton region has to offer,” said Rep. Michael Turner.
Congress established the ORLP program in 2014 to support urban parks in underserved communities across the country. It is administered by the National Park Service and funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as a nationally competitive grant program to increase access to the outdoors for disadvantaged communities. While LWCF is a popular program with strong bipartisan support and mandatory funding, ORLP still remains a discretionary grant program, which jeopardizes funding for underserved communities who don’t have access to outdoor recreation.
According to a report by the Trust for Public Land, in the 100 most populated cities, neighborhoods where most residents identify as Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native or Asian American and Pacific Islander have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods. Similar park space inequities exist in low-income neighborhoods across cities, highlighting the urgent need to center equity and justice in park investment and planning, just as this legislation would accomplish.
The ORLP program is vital for low-income communities and communities of color that lack equal access to local parks. A survey done by the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation found that, while the average amount of parkland in the county is 3.3 acres per 1,000 residents, the city of Compton reported only 0.6 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. In contrast, the city of Malibu, which has three times the median household income of Compton, has 55.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.
The Outdoors for All Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: The Wilderness Society, KABOOM!, Sierra Club, Trust for Public Lands, National Recreation and Park Association, City Parks Alliance, National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers (NASORLO), National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), LWCF Coalition, Outdoor Industry Association, REI Co-op, Latino Outdoors, Kids Speak for Parks, Safe Routes Partnership, National League of Cities, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, American Heart Association, American Forrest, American Hiking Society, Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK), Vista Outdoor, PeopleForBikes, and Children and Nature Network.
In addition to Senators Padilla and Collins, the bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine) Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).
Full text of the bill is available here.