Harris Reintroduces Legislation to Expand Access to Parks in Cities

WASHINGTON, D.C. May 14, 2019U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday reintroduced the Outdoors for All Act, legislation to help communities around the country construct and improve parks and other outdoor recreational spaces, particularly in underserved communities that lack access to outdoor recreation areas. Currently, one in three Americans do not live within a 10-minute walk of a quality local park, which limits the ability for children to grow up experiencing the outdoors.

“Every American—especially our children—deserves access to the outdoors no matter where they live,” said Harris. “We must do more to ensure that our communities have conveniently located parks and open spaces so that that everybody can enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of spending time outdoors.”

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The Outdoors for All Act would codify and establish a dedicated source of funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP). As a nationally competitive grant program funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, ORLP helps create and improve state and locally-owned parks and other outdoor recreation areas, particularly in recreation-poor communities deprived of the benefits that parks and open spaces provide.

The Outdoors for All Act is a companion bill to legislation introduced by Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) in the House of Representatives.

“For many diverse and underserved communities, city parks are sometimes the only means to easily access the outdoors,” said Rep. Barragan. “With the growing need to get our kids active, green spaces are crucial to ensuring our families live healthier and happier. Thank you Senator Harris for working with me to improve the quality of life for our communities.”

The Outdoors for All Act is supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition and a broad set of environmental, public health, and city planning advocates.

“Far too many people in the United States lack access to a close-to-home park or green space, and entire generations of children are growing up without experiencing the immense benefits of nature,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Access to quality parks and green infrastructure will make our cities healthier, safer and more connected, and is essential for all residents. The Outdoors for All Act will help us get there, and I’m thrilled that Senator Harris has introduced this important legislation in the U.S. Senate.”

“Thank you to Senator Harris for introducing this important and timely legislation to address some of the barriers to getting outdoors. Just as our school systems are segregated by class and race, so are our neighborhoods. This means low-income families are significantly less likely to have access to a quality park. In fact, one in three people in the U.S. do not live within a ten minute walk of a local park. The Outdoors for All act will bring us one step closer to equity in outdoor access by providing a dedicated funding source for outdoor recreation projects in under-resourced communities,” said Joel Pannell, Associate Director of Sierra Club Outdoors for All.

“Whole generations of children in our nation are growing up without access to the benefits of getting outdoors. Given everything we now know about the mental, physical and social health benefits of outdoor activity, we have an obligation to close this gap and ensure that everyone in our communities has access to the healing power of nature and the outdoors,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Founder and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.

“Parks and outdoor spaces are critical to the health and well-being of residents in our nation’s cities, towns and villages. They are where community members play, exercise, gather for social events, and connect to nature. Local leaders support the Outdoors for All Act and applaud Sen. Harris for her commitment to helping cities improve existing outdoor infrastructure and revitalize underserved neighborhoods,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Indiana, president of National League of Cities.

“Currently, our public lands are not reflective of our demographic and ethnic diversity, especially as our country continues to change at a rapid pace. As our public lands are constantly under threat it is crucial to engage all segments of our population because the future of our public lands will depend upon public support from all Americans,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Only one third of Latinos live within walking distance of a park. The Outdoors for All Act aims to provide equitable access to parks for urban communities with the least access. This important legislation will give priority to projects that empower underserved communities, provide job-training to youth, and leverage resources through public-private partnerships.”

“Our parks and outdoor spaces must reflect the diversity of our nation. We need to advance policies that improve equity in the access to the outdoors for all Americans,” said Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro. “We are grateful for Senator Harris’ leadership — her legislation will help countless African American communities across the country connect to their natural and cultural heritage.”

“American Hiking Society praises the introduction of the Outdoors for All Act by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), which will expand access to outdoor public spaces for underserved communities,” said Kate Van Waes, Executive Director of American Hiking Society. “Senator Harris’ legislation will make sure that the communities that need them most will be able to enjoy trails, parks, and open spaces close to home.”

In addition to Harris, Outdoors for All Act is co-sponsored by Senators Booker (D-NJ), Smith (D-MN), Blumenthal (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), and Wyden (D-OR).

For full bill text, click here.