Padilla Bill to Improve Urban Park Equity Advances in the Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) applauded the inclusion of his bipartisan bill, the Outdoors for All Act, as part of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022, which was marked up and unanimously voted out of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee today. The Outdoors for All Act, which Padilla introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), would expand access to parks and outdoor recreation opportunities in urban, disadvantaged communities, helping to close the park equity divide. The broader bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The Outdoors for All Act would codify the popular Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) into law and make improvements to this program. The ORLP program awards grants to urban and low-income communities around the country to improve outdoor recreation infrastructure, revitalize local economies, and enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods. Padilla’s bill would make ORLP more equitable by allowing the Interior Department to waive the required local cost-share if communities don’t have reasonable means, make tribal communities eligible for funding, lower the population threshold so more communities can compete for funding, and require the National Park Service to consider whether projects improve outdoor recreation in communities with inadequate park access. It would also build community resilience to climate change by requiring NPS to consider whether projects reduce urban heat islands, enhance air or water quality, or provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

“Every American deserves to have easy, close-to-home access to nature and outdoor recreational activities,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “Yet, the stark inequity between low- and high-income communities and their access to parks is unacceptable. I’m proud that our bill will build and improve more neighborhood parks and green spaces while building community resilience to climate impacts. The inclusion of the Outdoors for All Act is a bipartisan win that will improve the quality of life for communities in every state across the country and I look forward to seeing it through to passage in the Senate.”

“Our state is fortunate to have abundant natural resources that allow Mainers and visitors to enjoy our pristine environment,” said Senator Collins. “Regrettably, many Americans, particularly those living in urban and low-income areas, lack access to outdoor green spaces that give them the ability to experience the beauty and tranquility of nature close to home. I am pleased that Congress has taken another step toward passing our bipartisan bill, which would invest in these communities to support parks, playgrounds, trails, and other projects that will help ensure that all Americans have outdoor recreation opportunities.”

“Parks are where kids play, parents relax, and we all enjoy the outdoors,” said Senator John Hickenlooper. “Our bipartisan bill will expand access to urban parks for communities nationwide.”

“Access to nature is a human right. No matter your zip code, income level, race or ethnic background, everyone deserves to enjoy outdoor experiences,” said Tara Brown, Senior Government Relations Representative at The Wilderness Society. “Historically underresourced communities across the country need better access to the economic and health benefits that quality parks, trails and green spaces provide. This is exactly what the Outdoors Recreation Legacy Partnership program seeks to ensure. We’re thankful to Senators Padilla and Collins, as well as Representatives Barragán and Turner, for demonstrating their commitment to ending persistent inequity in access to nature and the outdoors.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Coalition applauds Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) for their leadership, as well as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passing the Outdoors for All Act through the committee as part of the Outdoor Recreation package introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Barrasso (R-WY). This important legislation prioritizes equitable outdoor access in underserved communities by codifying the LWCF-funded Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) Program. We are grateful for the bipartisan support to create outdoor spaces for those who need them most and for the inclusion of language that lowers the population threshold and allows Native American Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian communities to apply directly for this critical funding,” said Lesley Kane Szynal, Chair of the LWCF Coalition.

“One in three people in the U.S. do not have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from home, and this legislation will make real progress towards closing that park equity gap,” said Bill Lee, Senior Vice President for Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations at the Trust for Public Land. “We are particularly grateful to Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) for their leadership in advancing the Outdoors for All Act, and to Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) for including it in the legislative package approved by the Committee today.  For the many communities that so urgently need this help, Trust for Public Land looks forward to timely enactment of this vital bill.”

If enacted, the Outdoors for All Act will invest in parks and open spaces in areas where 80 percent of Americans live. According to a report published by the Trust for Public Land, in the 100 most populated cities, communities where most residents identify as Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native or Asian American and Pacific Islander, have an average of 44 percent less access to park acreage than predominantly white and higher-income communities. The Outdoors for All Act centers equity and justice in outdoor recreation investments.

For a section by section of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022, click here.

For full text of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022, click here.