USA - Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now
The pandemic has added urgency to the national dialogue on the role of parks and public spaces as essential civic infrastructure. As schools, businesses, churches and other institutions closed, park and trail use surged as one of the last public places to support our physical and mental health with ample leeway for social distancing. Not all cities are so fortunate to have spaces for people to safely meet-up, exercise, get fresh air, find access to nature, and feel normal again. Parks and trails are more important than ever. And there is new legislation in the wings to help.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring the Great American Outdoors Act to a vote in June. The Act will fully and permanently dedicate $900 million per year into the Land and Water Conservation Fund and reduce the maintenance backlog on our public lands. President Trump has signaled that he would sign it into law. This bipartisan legislation supports local economies, encourages tourism, and creates jobs — a win for the economy and environment while providing additional space for recreation and access to nature at a time when we need it most.
During this pandemic we have experienced a renewed understanding of the important — and invaluable — place our parks and greenspace play in building community health. We know they will help cities emerge stronger and more economically and socially resilient during our recovery.
Investments in city parks is needed more than ever to help address some of our greatest urban challenges — from stormwater management and flood prevention to reducing public health costs, economic revitalization, and job growth. Study after study shows that immersion in nature has substantial physical and mental health benefits, and the closer you live to a park the more likely you are to use it for recreation and exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control, one-in-five children and one-in three adults are obese, and 90 percent of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual health care expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.