Pennsylvania’s newest outdoor recreation plan was finalized in January, but its name, vision, recommendations, and actions were a premonition of things to come.
The Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2020-2024: Recreation for All (PDF) lays out priorities for delivering outdoor recreation programs and services over the next five years.
Driving the priorities and actions of Recreation for All is a vision that, “Enjoyable outdoor recreation is welcoming to all and accessible in every Pennsylvania community.”
Access to Outdoor Recreation Still Needed by Many
At a time when people flocked to the outdoors for their physical and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, the plan provides data that shows there are inequities in how people can access the outdoors and how welcome they feel in these spaces.
“Pennsylvania’s new outdoor recreation plan serves as a blueprint on how we can make outdoor recreation accessible to every Pennsylvanian,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
“While Pennsylvania has a wealth of outdoor spaces and recreation amenities, and many people have easy access to outdoor recreation according to our surveys, we still have a long way to go to achieve our vision of welcoming and accessible recreation for all. This plan helps us get there.”
While 69 percent of Pennsylvanians agree they can safely access a trail within 15 minutes of where they live, only a little more than half of Pennsylvanians agree they can safely walk to a public park.
Sophisticated mapping data compiled by The Trust for Public Land for the 2020 plan will allow recreation providers to pinpoint those areas of the state where residents lack connections to outdoor recreation.
The plan sets a goal of having a park within a 10-minute walk of every Pennsylvanian.
A Plan Developed for Pennsylvanians by Pennsylvanians
In October 2018, DCNR began a more than a year-long public process of developing the state’s outdoor recreation plan -- required every five years by the federal government to receive Land and Water Conservation Fund monies.
The plan helps to guide and prioritize planning and investments for local and state governments and other recreation providers. It identifies areas of greatest need, sets priorities for state and federal grant funding, and delineates a course of action.
In September 2020, DCNR released the plan to the public, developed with input of nearly 12,000 Pennsylvanians, including recreation providers, outdoor enthusiasts, and the public at large.
A 40-member Technical Advisory Committee advised and guided the work based on the data received. Outdoor enthusiasts provided more than 6,700 suggestions on how outdoor recreation agencies or organizations could help them participate in outdoor recreation.
“This plan was developed for Pennsylvanians, by Pennsylvanians,” Dunn noted. “While DCNR leads the plan, implementing it is a team effort of other state agencies as well as recreation, conservation, and health partners to together tackle challenges and embrace opportunities.”
Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan Priorities
The plan sets five priorities. Within the priorities are 20 recommendations and 70 action steps.
Health and Wellness
Study after study show that getting people active in the outdoors can have a positive effect on our mental and physical health.
This plan focuses on that connection between health and the outdoors, leveraging partnerships with the health care community to expand nature-based health and wellness programs, and improving the walking and biking networks.
Recreation for All
Ensuring all Pennsylvanians have close-to-home opportunities for recreation is vitally important to the future of outdoor recreation in the state.
This plan aims to provide access to outdoor spaces where they are lacking and ensure that all people feel invited and engaged in the outdoors.
Our ability to protect and enhance our public natural and recreational resources grows increasingly challenging as interests diversify, pressures intensify, infrastructure ages, and our climate changes.
This plan outlines strategies to balance the needs of our natural resources with the ever-changing demands of recreation enthusiasts through careful planning and design, innovative solutions and partnerships, and emphasis on stewardship by all.
Funding and Economic Development
Given the wealth of outdoor assets and successful case studies, the opportunities for the growth of the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania is hopeful, but commitment to investments and prioritization must improve.
This plan outlines why safeguarding and increasing investments in outdoor recreation and expanding support for the outdoor recreation economy must be top priorities.
Technology gives the public instant access to information about outdoor recreation opportunities. Advances in technology have allowed for better data collection and analysis.
At the same time, technological advancements can lead to overuse and overpromotion and detract from the beauty of nature.
This plan seeks to set the right balance on how we can use technology to our advantage without it being disruptive or destructive.
Opportunities to Learn More About the Plan'
To learn more about the plan, DCNR and WeConservePA are hosting a series of free, public webinars that will focus on one of the Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan’s five priority areas.
Each webinar will focus on one priority and cover challenges and opportunities facing Pennsylvania communities, research findings, and best practices. Special guests already helping to implement the plan also will share their stories.
The webinars will be held from 11:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. on the following days:
Advance registration is required for each webinar.
In addition, DCNR has launched a new visual story map -- Recreation for All -- as another tool to engage stakeholders and communities in learning more about the plan.
Additional information and resources about the plan, including how to request a printed copy of the plan, are available at the DCNR website.