Photo by Allison Gallo
As most of us know, being outdoors and connected to nature makes you feel better and the more we preserve the natural and other resources around us, the better off we are. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) agrees.
The department has a new “Virginia Outdoors Plan,” which is issued every five years. The theme this time is “Bringing Virginia the Benefits of Outdoor Recreation.” You can download the full plan at www.dcr.virginia.gov/vop.
“This edition highlights the immense benefits we gain from the outdoors — mental and physical health, a connection to nature and a strong tourism economy, to name a few,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler.
The department goes on to say:
The plan provides recommendations for projects that would enhance access to outdoor recreation in each of Virginia’s 21 planning districts. It also addresses the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, encouraging investment in green infrastructure and the conservation of critical landscapes.
“Planning for conservation is vital to protecting the community assets we all share, such as water quality, biodiversity, scenic and historic resources, and working farms and forestlands,” DCR Director Clyde E. Cristman said. “The Virginia Outdoors Plan provides links to a variety of conservation tools to assist planners with this work.”
Included in the plan are results of a statewide survey of Virginians’ outdoor recreation activity and preferences. The survey was administered by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. It was mailed to 14,000 households, and 3,252 responded.
Select findings from the survey:
— Virginians have a high regard for the importance of outdoor recreation opportunities and a strong commitment to the protection of natural areas. The survey finds strong support for public funding and public management of lands in pursuit of the protection of natural areas and the availability of public access to those areas.
— Seventy percent of respondents consider access to outdoor recreation “very important.”
— The top four outdoor recreation activities in Virginia are: visiting natural areas (71 percent); driving for pleasure (67 percent); walking for pleasure (67 percent); and visiting state or national parks (56 percent).
— Fifty-four percent of respondents cited access to natural areas as the most needed outdoor recreation opportunity with parks (49 percent), water access (49 percent) and trails (43 percent) rounding out the top four.
Publication of the Virginia Outdoors Plan is required for Virginia to participate in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund program. Since the program’s inception more than 50 years ago, Virginia has received upwards of $76 million in LWCF grants through the National Park Service. More than 400 projects across the state have been made possible with this funding.