Outdoors for All Act: Reaching for the Finish Line

February 22, 2024, Department, by Kyle Simpson

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During my nearly 20 years working for Congress and in government affairs, it always has amazed me how slowly progress is made on legislation until the very last minute, when things seem to move extremely fast. Work on the Outdoors for All Act is no exception to that rule. The legislation that codifies the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program and expands eligibility for the program has long been a priority for NRPA and its members. The legislation has been introduced during the past few Congressional sessions but hasn’t yet made it across the finish line. At the end of 2022, the legislation saw movement but, in the end, ran out of time as Congress adjourned for the year.

Championing Outdoor Recreation

NRPA joined our allies and partners to reintroduce the legislation in early 2023. Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (D-CA) is the champion of the legislation in the House of Representatives and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the legislation in the Senate. Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) joined as lead Republican co-sponsors for the legislation. While starting the process over in 2023 was frustrating, we were confident that this session was our time.

The legislation slowly chugged along during 2023. We were thrilled to see the legislation included by both the House and Senate committees on natural resources in their respective outdoor recreation packages making their way through Congress. It is often the case that pieces of legislation like the Outdoors for All Act require inclusion in a larger legislative vehicle to pass. Both committees have had hearings on the legislation and have voted to pass the package legislation out of committee. The next step is for one or both chambers of Congress to pass their outdoor recreation packages.

Power in Partnership

NRPA and its members have been working actively to get this piece of legislation across the finish line. In November, NRPA organized a press conference that included President and CEO Kristine Stratton, City Parks Alliance Executive Director Catherine Nagel, and Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous to push for passage of the legislation. Congresswoman Barragán and Congressman Brian K. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), another strong supporter of the legislation, joined them. Congressman Fitzpatrick highlighted the positive mental health benefits of outdoor recreation in his remarks supporting the legislation.

NRPA continues to activate its network in support of the Outdoors for All Act, uplifting the voices of park and recreation professionals across the country. The NRPA Annual Conference underscored the importance of access to the outdoors, allies and partners joined together to rally on the steps of Capitol Hill, and hundreds of messages flooded Congress, urging them to invest in local green spaces and recreation spaces by passing the Outdoors for All Act.

While it seems like we still have a long way to go, I know that once things get moving it could happen quickly. We are slowly moving toward the finish line and know that we will get there thanks to your support.

Kyle Simpson is Senior Government Affairs Manager at NRPA.