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Kennett Outdoors invited to contribute to the development of Pennsylvania's next 5 year outdoor recreation plan

Updated: Mar 12

How can we make Pennsylvania's outdoors even more open to all?

Every 5 years, Pennsylvania must complete a plan to remain eligible for federal land and water conservation funds. So Kennett Outdoors is very excited to one of about two dozen non-public community-based organizations to be invited to sit on the 52 person Technical Advisory Committee tasked with developing Pennsylvania's 2025-2030 Outdoor Recreation Plan. We began meeting last month, and will continue through the spring of 2025.

The planning process provides a unique opportunity to learn more about what is important to Pennsylvanians, and to use this information to shape our efforts going forward. The 2020-2024 State Outdoor Recreation Plan (found here) re-affirmed our love for outdoor activities from hiking to fishing, and gives us a glimpse into what is possible. It also highlighted some important benefits and important gaps that align with Kennett Outdoors' priorities. We are looking forward to drawing on our unique perspective on people with disabilities to help to shape the future of Pennsylvania's outdoors. Here are just some examples.

The first of five priorities to emerge from the 2020-2024 plan - promoting healthy living through outdoor connections - aligns perfectly with the priorities established by Kennett Outdoors. Our Healthy Outdoors and Outdoors Every Day can help get people to make a plan to get healthy, while our Fresh Air Self Care FOR ALL provides concrete guidance to those with disabilities interested in getting healthy outdoors through regular walks. We suspect that Pennsylvanians will need more programs on the ground like Fresh Air Self Care FOR ALL course to make real progress, and hope to learn where others have seen success through similar outreach.

The second of five priorities from the previous plan - recreation for all - grew from the increasing awareness that Pennsylvania is increasingly diverse, and that access to outdoor facilities and programs varies significantly across Pennsylvania. We are glad to see that the previous plan recognized that diversity is diverse, extending beyond distinctions based on race and income to include age, ability, and sexual identity. Our work helping the Land Trust Alliance's to develop guidelines to make conservation more inclusive also benefited from this broader perspective. The 2020-2024 plan adopted some new and interesting approaches to capture some of the gaps - like mapping tools that assess specific gaps for underserved communities - that we think might will shed light on other gaps related to disability. For example, our survey of accessible trails in Chester County reveals important gaps in access to those trails more likely to offer real, year-round benefits. We also hope to explore how we can broaden our thinking about trail design to recognize the value of natural trails that just fall short of accessibility standards, and the potential to help guide people facing mobility challenges to build their capacity to enjoy a greater range of trails.

There are so many other elements addressed in the 2020-2025 plan that could be adapted for people with disabilities. We are excited that the previous plan looked beyond parks and preserves to see how active transportation networks also help to connect people with the outdoors, and will be eager to see the response to our efforts to break down barriers to active transportation by adapting electric cargo bikes for deliveries by people with disabilities. We are eager to explore how programs to help volunteers and the workforce be more inclusive might begin during the transition from high school, given the chronically high levels of unemployment and social isolation among adults with disabilities. Imagine a type of Works Progress Administration like that launched by Roosevelt but tailored to people with more significant disabilities and focused on environmental stewardship!!

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