Monday, November 29, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021

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In Our View: Provide state insight on our great outdoors

The Columbian

We might choose the top of Dog Mountain, with its views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood. Or perhaps a bit of kayaking on Lacamas Lake. Or maybe just a simple bike ride along Salmon Creek Greenway Trail.

Those are just some of the areas near Clark County (Dog Mountain is in Skamania County). If we’re feeling adventurous, a trip to Palouse Falls is tough to beat.

The point is that Washington has countless outdoor experiences that take advantage of our state’s breathtaking beauty. Washington routinely is ranked among the best states for outdoors adventures, and now the state Recreation and Conservation Office would like to hear about them.

The department is rewriting its State Recreation and Conservation Plan, along with the State Trails Plan, and officials are seeking input. An online survey is available for residents to chronicle their outdoor experiences, including a chance to map your favorite place — “Pin a point on the map and tell us why you love to spend time outdoors in Washington.”

“We want to hear from people of as many different backgrounds as possible, people who regularly enjoy Washington’s outdoors and others who feel they don’t have as much access to public lands. … It’s really important that everyone tell us what they want their outdoor places to look like in the future,” said Megan Duffy, Recreation and Conservation Office director.

Outdoors recreation is in the DNA of Washington residents. It’s also firmly embedded in our economy. According to the Washington Trails Association, enthusiasts spend more than $20 billion a year on outdoor recreation in our state, and that recreation is a strong draw for tourists. The industry supports 200,000 jobs and annually generates about $2 billion in local and state taxes.

Congress took a big step toward preserving and enhancing outdoor recreation last year with passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Sen. Maria Cantwell was one of the primary supporters for the act, which provides dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The LWCF provides federal money for public spaces and originally passed in 1965 as the brainchild of Washington Sen. Henry Jackson. Among dozens of projects in Southwest Washington, the fund has helped preserve the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

But for decades, Congress had routinely declined to fully fund it. After years of wrangling, lawmakers finally demonstrated a commitment to outdoors recreation, and Cantwell said: “It couldn’t be a more important investment, and it couldn’t give America a bigger return. This is a huge day for public lands in the United States Senate.”

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Plan helps define that investment. As the organization’s website says: “As we’ve seen during the past year, recreating on public lands has the power to bring people together, restore our hearts and minds, and keep our bodies healthy. This year more people than ever are enjoying our public lands, parks, and recreation areas. That is why we need you to help shape the future of Washington’s great outdoors.”

The office provides guidance for the development of parks, trails and other outdoor amenities throughout the state, and it helps promote those projects for state and federal funding programs. Draft plans are expected early next year before being finalized for 2023.

That is where the public comes in, with an opportunity to share your thoughts about your favorite outdoor recreation spots in Washington.