Partners Outdoors 2007: Unlocking the Fun and Benefits of the Outdoors to Urban Americans

National recreation leaders from the public and private sectors will gather for the 16th Partners Outdoors Conference on January 7-10, 2007 in Lake Arrowhead, California. Organized annually by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), this year’s theme is “Unlocking the Fun and Benefits of the Outdoors to Urban Americans, And Especially Urban Youth.” Sponsors include the seven federal land management agencies, the National Association of State Park Directors and the American Recreation Coalition.

Charles Jordan, Chairman of the Conservation Fund, will give the opening address, “Connecting Americans to the Outdoors: Communications, Places and Programs.” Responders will include Robert Johnson, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, Sally Collins, Associate Chief, USDA Forest Service and other top agency officials.

Dudley Edmondson, author of Black and Brown Faces in America's Wild Places will moderate a panel discussion, “Reaching All Americans – Overcoming the Challenges of Language, Tradition and Information.” Panelists include Denise Meridith, President, Denise Meridith Consultants, Inc. and Mamie Parker, Assistant Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.

Special presentations will be given about innovative programs on the San Bernardino National Forest including the San Bernardino National Forest Association Campground Youth Interpretation Program. A field seminar at the Big Bear Discovery Center is also planned.

This year’s conference theme is especially relevant in light of recent national publicity about decreases in national park visitation, a childhood obesity epidemic and the 21st century’s changing American demographic. And making visits to the outdoors enjoyable and memorable by providing appropriate, diverse opportunities for healthy fun and learning for children and families is now a major focus of federal land management agencies.

The 150 invited participants at Partners Outdoors 2007 will review leisure patterns of Americans in the 21st Century and ways by which activities appropriate to public lands can be increased and enhanced. Special attention will be given to new and modified recreational activities, from geocaching to digital photography, from group camping to adventure sports, as a means to attract youth and non-traditional public land visitors.

In addition to traditional participants, representatives of such organizations as Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs, school systems and youth health advocates, will participate in the discussions.

The southern California site has been selected because of the large population proximate to federal lands, the demographic complexity of the population and the innovative actions taken by BLM and the Forest Service in the region to accommodate changing public recreation preferences.

A report of the conference will be available on in January.