National Forum Focuses New Attention on Outdoor Recreation

Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2007) - Nearly 200 public and private-sector recreation leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. yesterday for a National Recreation Forum focused on the opportunities and challenges facing outdoor recreation in the 21st century. The National Forum, which was convened by the American Recreation Coalition and the National Forest Foundation, was the culmination of a series of Regional Recreation Forums held throughout the country during March. The day-long national gathering began with four concurrent sessions hosted by nine national organizations and the USDA Forest Service, followed by a plenary session in the afternoon. The sessions’ enthusiastic participants shared ideas and success stories, learned about exciting new programs, and identified opportunities for partnerships to improve recreation resources across the country.

The Forum’s morning sessions covered the following key topics: recreational access to public lands; the role played by partnerships and volunteerism in enhancing recreational opportunities; travel, tourism and recreation on public lands; and linkages between youth service organizations and public lands. The afternoon’s plenary session featured welcoming remarks by federal land management agency leaders, reports from the five regional forums and the morning’s four topical sessions, comments from several special young people, and presentations from leading national recreation organizations.

The key officials who addressed the Forum included: Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System; James Hughes, Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Geoff Haskett, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Steve Stockton, Deputy Director of Civil Works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Steve Whitesell, Centennial Coordinator for the National Park Service. Each agency leader emphasized the importance of recreation, the value of public lands as recreation resources, and the critical role of partners in sustaining America’s support for these special lands and waters. “Recreation is a way to connect children and all Americans to their public lands,” noted the Forest Service’s Joel Holtrop, “and our partners and friends help to sustain America’s support for protecting these resources.”

Participants from each regional forum traveled to Washington to deliver their reports at this national gathering. Overall, more than 1,000 people attended the regional forums, which, the reporters noted, were marked by high levels of energy and contagious enthusiasm about working together to build and improve recreation programs. Complete reports on the regional forums will be available online at www.funoutdoors.com. Those reporting on the morning’s topical sessions, which were attended by more than 150 participants, noted extraordinary new opportunities for collaboration and included dozens of recommendations for future actions, partnerships, and programs to improve and diversify outdoor recreation experiences.

Finding ways to connect children and nature through recreation has been a continuing theme at all the forums. To highlight the heightened national interest in connecting youth with the outdoors, Josh Morrison, 15-year-old founder of “Geeks in the Woods,” and a youth panel of Andrew Michael Neill from Campfire USA and Jamar W. Coleman of the Montgomery County, Maryland Conservation Corps discussed how they had become interested in outdoor experiences and how to engage young people in outdoor recreation and resource conservation. Describing his generation as “indoors children,” Josh said, “What do we want to do outside? Absolutely nothing...unless you can show us the ‘YO’ factor...unless you can explain how we are linked to the outdoors and the planet...unless you can relate it directly to our life. If you can make it personal and global we will listen.”

The National Forum also provided an important opportunity for more than 25 dynamic private-sector recreation community leaders to spotlight successful programs and recommend actions to ensure high quality recreation experiences on the nation’s public lands and waters for Americans of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Common themes raised during the presentations included: the role of outdoor recreation in strengthening family ties; the contribution of recreation on public land to improving Americans’ health; the use of technology to enhance recreation experiences; the importance of overcoming challenges to recreation access; and the role of private-sector partners and volunteers in both marketing and providing visitor services.

A final report on all the Recreation Forums will be delivered to the recreation community on May 22, 2007 during a special event featuring remarks by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, and the announcement of the first recipients of the Forest Service’s new “More Kids in the Woods” grant program.