Partners Outdoors 2004 Takes on Key Issues

Leaders in the recreation community from eight federal agencies, state government, key nonprofits and recreation companies large and small met for four days at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort near Salt Lake City, Utah, as participants in Partners Outdoors 2004, an annual brainstorming and action session co-hosted by the Recreation Roundtable and federal recreation-providing agencies. Special guests included Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella and Take Pride in America Executive Director Marti Allbright. The theme of the session, the thirteenth of these annual meetings, was Opening the Doors Wider at America’s Public Lands – Our Natural Health and Fitness Centers.

Participants analyzed new national research, including Roper ASW’s Outdoor Recreation in America 2003 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s research on physical activity in America. They also heard presentations about key federal initiatives and local efforts designed to make the benefits of recreation more accessible to portions of the American public not currently receiving their fair share of the benefits derived from recreational activities on public lands. The session also allowed participants to see firsthand the public/private partnership at work in Little Cottonwood Canyon between Snowbird, Alta Ski Area and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest – a partnership that successfully hosts an estimated two million recreation experiences annually. Snowbird operates on a combination of private land and national forest lands covered by a long-term permit.

A major focus of discussions was the impact of electronic leisure pursuits on outdoor recreation. Although surfing the Internet, playing computer games and enjoying other electronic activities compete with traditional outdoor recreation for available time and funds, participants concluded that there was potential for harnessing these same new technologies both to enhance recreation experiences and to improve recreation management efforts. Participants also developed plans for increasing the contribution of outdoor recreation to the health of Americans, including efforts to support Meridian 2004, a national event scheduled for June 2004 that will focus on the relationship between outdoor recreation and public health

Special insights on meeting urban recreation needs were provided by the managers of four additional ski areas operating on the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, including Snow Basin, site of key 2002 Olympic skiing events.

Partners Outdoors 2004 concluded with a series of recommendations, including:

  1. public and private organizations should continue and expand programs like WOW (which introduces camping to urban children) and CAST (which provides fishing opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged children) to reach out to portions of the American public not currently receiving their fair share of the benefits derived from recreational activities on public lands – from seniors to minorities to those whose health is at risk;
  2. public and private recreation interests should create an Outdoor Recreation Technology Task Force coordinated by the Recreation Roundtable that will actively seek out means to develop and test applications of new technologies to enhance outdoor recreation experiences and improve recreation management;
  3. Partners Outdoors sponsors should continue and expand efforts to fully utilize available federal and state recreation assistance programs on public lands;
  4. federal and state agencies must expand the capability to successfully use volunteers on public lands and encourage additional volunteerism through the Take Pride in America initiative; and
  5. recreation community leaders should take an active role in Meridian 2004 and related efforts to maximize recreation’s contribution to the health of the American people.
Information presented at Partners Outdoors and more details on the recommendations will be shared with federal agency leadership and with recreation industry organizations by members of the Partners Outdoors steering committee, which includes representatives of the sponsoring organizations.