Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON —Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Georgia that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor recreation jobs across the country.
The Get Outdoors Georgia program and a multi-use trail system at Panola Mountain State Park are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the natural world.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Nathan Deal and the state of Georgia, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Georgia and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Georgia highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Get Outdoors Georgia
Georgia created a platform, Get Outdoors Georgia, to achieve a healthier population through outdoor activities. This program targets both youth and adult populations in urban and rural areas. Get Outdoors Georgia could benefit from a partnership with the National Park Service's Healthy Parks Healthy People Initiative.
This NPS program works with national, state, and local parks, as well as businesses, healthcare providers, scientists, foundations, and advocacy organizations to foster the health-related role that parks and outdoor spaces play in our society. In the Parks Prescription Program, for example, doctors prescribe activities like a daily walk in a park as a part of their treatment. Bringing NPS expertise to these issues could greatly benefit Georgia's program.
Panola Mountain State Park
Just 20 miles from downtown Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park is a recreational jewel for metropolitan Atlanta. Panola Mountain's designation as a National Natural Landmark recognizes its 100-acre granite outcrop that shelters rare plants of the Piedmont region. The park encompasses 1,635 acres of critical recreation and conservation lands and protects four miles of frontage on the South River.
Neglected for decades, the South River needs improved water quality and riparian habitat. Because of its proximity to Atlanta, the park is accessible to millions of Georgians and visitors. Panola Mountain State Park connects with Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area and its sister granite outcrop, Arabia Mountain. The park also connects with eight local schools through a network of multi-use, paved paths weaving through a variety of ecosystems and across the South River.
The state of Georgia wants to extend the multi-use trail system as a regional network that would connect with adjoining partner agencies' and nonprofit partners' lands. It also wants to develop overnight camping areas and recreation-access points along the South River.
The report will also include potential action by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Georgia, for example, the department will partner with Georgia to demonstrate and promote health benefits of parks and to enhance recreational access and opportunities for urban youth. While Interior cannot commit to federal financial support for the projects identified in the report due to budgetary constraints, Secretary Salazar is committed to doing everything possible to advance each project in the coming year through whatever means available.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.