WASHINGTON, June 9, 2020 — The House Appropriations Committee today released a full committee report outlining fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, which includes a significant funding increase to local parks through the Outdoors Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP).

The committee report includes $100 million for the ORLP, which is a $75 million increase over last year’s funding level. This historic investment in local parks is the highest in decades and the largest investment in the ORLP program’s history. Funding the ORLP ensures access to quality parks and greenspaces for the communities that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts and have park deficits. The House Democrats’ commitment to ensuring access to local parks and quality outdoors spaces is an important investment at a time when the country faces a global pandemic and ongoing racial inequities. Quality parks and outdoors recreation helps to ensure that all people can experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of nature.

“We appreciate the House Appropriations Committee’s commitment to investing in people and local community parks, especially in the neighborhoods that need it most. It is critical that we empower the communities that endure the highest impacts during this time of a global pandemic, climate change crisis, and ongoing racial injustices,” stated Tara Brown, Government Relations Representative at The Wilderness Society. “By significantly increasing funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, we are ensuring that people have access to quality parks and greenspaces no matter their zip-code, income, or race. Funding local parks is a vital step towards providing the health, social, environmental, and economic benefits that come along with access to quality nature for all people.”

“During the coronavirus pandemic, nature has taken on a whole new meaning for many of us, becoming a vital respite from anxiety, grief, and stress. But 1 in 3 Americans don’t have close to home access to quality parks. We applaud the House Appropriations Committee for this historic investment in local parks. Funding ORLP at the highest level since its creation sends a clear message – access to green space is a right not a privilege.” said Bill Lee, Senior VP of Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations at The Trust for Public Land. “If we maximize the opportunities for all people to experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of nature then every community—regardless of race, income or zip code—will be stronger, healthier, and more resilient for generations to come.”

“We applaud the House Interior Appropriations committee for recognizing the critical need to address outdoor equity and substantially increase investment in the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program,” said Joel Pannell, Associate Director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign. “Access to nature is a human right, and it’s shameful that, in 2020, so many communities still lack access to the outdoors and all of the health, environmental, social, and economic benefits that come with it. Prioritizing the funding of nearby nature projects where they are needed most and doing so in partnership with community-based groups is essential to building equity in the outdoors. Strengthening the ORLP program is an important first step in fulfilling the vision of a truly inclusive outdoors for all.”

“Parks play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. We are thrilled that the House Appropriations Committee substantially increased funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director of City Parks Alliance. “With 80% of Americans living in urban and metropolitan areas, and the nation in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, investing in our city parks is needed now more than ever. This funding will leverage additional funds from public and private sources, and will help provide healthy and vibrant parks for all.”

“We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee for increasing local park funding through the ORLP program in the FY2021 appropriations. This significant funding increase helps to ensure outdoor recreation can reach all communities and is available to everyone,” said Elvis Cordova, NRPA Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. “As we have all experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, socially distanced recreation in the outdoors is vital for our health and wellness. Record numbers of people are seeking the benefits of local outdoor recreation opportunities. Increased funding for ORLP signals that social equity and local access are a priority to the House of Representatives.”

Background: Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP)

Established by Congress in 2014 and administered by the National Park Service, the ORLP is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to cities and towns of 50,000 or more residents. ORLP grants help create and improve state and locally-owned parks and other outdoor recreation areas in ways that will help the public access or re-connect with the outdoors, particularly in neighborhoods that lack parks and recreational opportunities. Priority is given to shovel-ready projects that empower underserved communities, provide job-training to youth, and leverage resources through public-private partnerships in areas with outdoor recreation deficits. ORLP complements the traditional LWCF formula State and Local Assistance Program. Through three funding cycles since 2014, awards have gone to projects in 30 different states.

The ORLP appropriations increase follows the House’s passage of an infrastructure bill (H.R. 2) which included language to codify and ensure funding for the ORLP program to enhance access to parks and develop recreational infrastructure in urban areas that lack greenspace. This was the first time the House voted to guarantee the ORLP program can benefit communities and signifies an important shift in Congress to prioritize local park access. Further, as Congress determines how best to provide economic relief at this time of crisis, investments in ORLP are increasingly being considered as a way to create jobs, invest in the hardest impacted communities, and ensure all people have access to a quality park within a 10-minute walk of their home.