Texas' Outdoor Recreation Plan plots future for parks, healthy lifestyles
Courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife
The latest Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan calls for more trails and greenways to encourage active lifestyles, new parks in or near urban areas, better access to public waters and a review of local park grant rules to make the most of limited dollars, among other recommendations. Besides ways to improve, the plan is filled with interesting research findings from many sources.
The plan ticks off a sobering list of challenges facing the Lone Star State, including how it's a predominately urban society where children are becoming less connected to nature and the outdoors.
Partly because of this increasingly "indoor" culture, obesity and healthcare costs are on the rise across the state. And, like the rest of America, Texas is recovering from the biggest recession since the Great Depression, creating budget challenges for public funds.
Additionally, the state has been rocked by natural disasters such as record drought and wildfires, and water resources are becoming strained.
However, the plan points hopefully to a body of research that makes the case for investing in outdoor recreation and parks solutions. For example, a key finding in a review of more than 200 research studies by the American Heart Association in 2011 was that every $1 spent on building biking trails and walking paths would save an estimated nearly $3 in medical expenses.
The values of wetlands and native prairies to filter water and prevent flooding are becoming better known, as are the importance of trees and green space for air quality. The plan notes that in the United States, urban park trees remove over 75,000 tons of air pollution annually, with a value of $500 million.
The plan also quantified quality of life. The plan states: "There is a well-documented scientific connection between access to outdoor recreation and positive physical health. Direct access to green space and parkland has been shown to correlate with improved cognitive function, increased self-esteem and better self-discipline, decreased levels of depression, lower stress levels, reduced cases of obesity and an increased sense of community and belonging."
The plan also cites research showing parks are significant generators of economic activity. For example, the economic impact on sales for Goose Island State Park in Aransas County was estimated to be over $7 million with almost 200 jobs created in 2006. The total economic impact reported for local - city and county - parks in the same year was a massive $5.51 billion in spending and 38,390 jobs created statewide.
The Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan must be updated every five years for the state to be eligible for continued funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital source to create and enhance local, state and national parks.
The full plan is available on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.
(Sources: Trust for America's Health, 2012; Nowak, et al., 2010; Crompton & Culpepper, 2006; The Perryman Group, 2006)