Senate Re-introduces Legislation to Ensure Outdoors for All

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) re-introduced the Outdoors for All Act on Thursday. The bipartisan legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-Maine), would expand outdoor recreational opportunities in urban and low-income communities across the nation.

The Outdoors for All Act codifies the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program in federal law and ensures that funding will go to communities without adequate access to local parks.

The action quickly received an endorsement from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). Interim Executive Director Kent Ebersole stated in a prepared statement, “Regardless of location, background, or income, all Americans deserve parks and green spaces that are within walking distance to their homes. Unfortunately, more than 100 million Americans live without suitable access to the outdoors. We are thrilled to see Congress prioritizing inclusive outdoor recreation programs in low-income, urban communities across the nation.”

He added, “This legislation will provide traditionally underserved communities with the resources they need to revitalize their neighborhoods and invest in new green spaces, which in turn will provide countless economic opportunities and mental and health benefits.”

The outdoor industry — which contributes $862 billion outdoor industry and supports 4.5 million employees — is committed to ensuring each person the opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces in their own community by supporting public-private initiatives to create more close-to-home infrastructure projects in communities that have been underserved and lack many of the amenities that contribute to a higher quality of life. These projects include accessible walking and bike paths, “parkifying” underpasses, beautifying alleyways, redesigning green space in industrial buildings.

Congress established the ORLP program in 2014. 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 communities that don’t have access to outdoor recreation.

In addition to Collins, Padilla, and King, the bill also is cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), 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 Case  (D-Penn.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.-44) and Congressman Mike Turner (R-Ohio-10) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.