Last week, our membership coordinator, Lexie Gritlefeld, received an invite to attend an Outdoors For All Roundtable and Press Conference with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Undersecretary Angela Barranco, California Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary Andrea Ambriz, California State Parks Director Armando Quintero, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, state and local elected officials, and other community and recreation leaders. The Roundtable and Press Conference events were centered around announcing California’s largest-ever single investment to create new parks and recreation opportunities in underserved communities across California.
It is not every day that you receive an invitation to meet with Interior Secretary Haaland and I was thrilled and excited every minute of the 7 hour drive from Mammoth Lakes down to San Ysidro, south of San Diego. Everything surrounding this event was positive and a huge celebration for outdoor recreation advocates like myself. It felt really good to see colleagues in person instead of over a Zoom call and to be welcomed with a hug from Deputy Secretary Andrea Ambriz, who should be credited for the organization of the event. Besides the California Natural Resources Agency and U.S. Department of Interior officials, attendees included partner organizations like Outdoor Outreach, Outdoor Alliance, Latino Outdoors, and new allies like Vet Voice Foundation and Brown Girls Surf. Secretary Crowfoot directed questions at the group to share experiences of what the outdoors have meant to us and responses ranged from youth advocates at Outdoor Outreach to the Resources Legacy Fund sharing about their work. Secretary Haaland shared memories of her personal connection to nature as a child looking over the mesa with her grandfather while growing up in the Pueblo of Laguna. Following the roundtable meeting, Secretary Haaland took a tour of the Beyer Park Site, which will receive grant funding from Prop 68 to create a city park.
At California Outdoor Recreation Partnership, our top two priorities have been prioritizing recreation infrastructure and the concept of “Outdoors for All” with a focus on equitable access to outdoor recreation, which were the two main reasons for convening for these events. The press conference marked the launch of California’s Outdoors For All Initiative, which you can learn about more here. At the press conference, Secretary Crowfoot and State Parks Director Armando announced $548.3 million in state grant funding to deliver new parks to more than 100 communities across California and kicked off the Newsom Administration’s “Outdoors for All” initiative to enable all Californians, regardless of zip code or income, to access parks and open space. Secretary Crowfoot also announced the new partnership with the Los Angeles Rams NFL team for a new state license plate in which proceeds will benefit the Rams Foundation and California Natural Resources Agency, which you can learn more about here.
Towards the end of the press conference, Interior Secretary Haaland highlighted, “For the 80% of Americans who live in or near cities, urban green spaces provide vital access to nature and outdoor recreation while also boosting local economies. These critical areas within metropolitan communities are gateways to improve access to nature and engage new audiences in outdoor recreation and conservation, particularly in communities of color and other underserved communities that historically haven’t had equitable access to nature. By fostering long-term partnerships with these communities, city parks and other urban green spaces are working to ensure that every community has a meaningful chance to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the surrounding wildlife and its habitat. These principles are central to President Biden’s America The Beautiful Initiative, a locally led and voluntary effort to preserve and restore 30% of our American lands and waters by 2030.” You can read the full press release here.
Following the event, in a one-on-one with Undersecretary Barranco, she thanked me and our organization for attending and I told her, “Although our mission is ‘to power a voice for the outdoor recreation industry,’ I feel like I’ve come here today to listen and see how we can support the Initiative and our partner organizations in their efforts.” At California Outdoor Recreation Partnership, we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on initiatives like 30×30 and Outdoors for All. Special thanks to the California Natural Resources Agency for the invitation to this event and for their continued partnership. To say that I am grateful is an understatement.