The state is seeking public input through a survey from all New Jersey residents on their concerns about parks, recreation and open spaces.
By law, all states must create a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan — SCORP – every five years. The Plans provide guidance to the state, local governments and conservation organizations on open space, recreational opportunities and how to connect our residents to the outdoors.
That’s why it’s so important for people from across the state to participate. Your feedback in this survey will inform New Jersey’s framework for open space preservation and recreation for years to come. The good news is there will be increased federal funding for parks in 2024 and New Jersey will have an opportunity to create a plan that will lead to parks and open spaces that are accessible and meaningful to all.
Throughout history, parks in the United States have been conceptualized, created and managed by white men who discriminated against those who did not look like them or share their beliefs leading communities of color to be cut off from outdoor parks and open spaces because of location or underfunding critical investments to ensure the parks are safe and accessible to all people. In recent years, park enthusiasts are reevaluating the legacy of even those like John Muir, who is credited with the creation of the National Park System, but who also has a long history of personal racism.
Even now people of color often feel unsafe in certain parks and open spaces for fear they will be confronted by someone who doesn’t believe they belong there and communities of color are often neglected when it comes to the development of parks and other recreational spaces. An inspiring group of youth in Camden, New Jersey recently created a play to protest growing up with a lack of clean green spaces, along with constant pollution in the city.
New Jersey League of Conservation Voters is committed to addressing environmental racism, and justice and equity issues in the environmental movement. As the Environmental Justice Associate at New Jersey LCV, I am honored to be a member of the New Jersey SCORP “Outside Together” advisory committee. I joined the “Outside Together” advisory committee to highlight current inequities in open spaces and recreation, expand our definition of outdoor recreational activities and advocate for strong stakeholder and community participation to inform the creation of the SCORP, especially for communities of color, people with disabilities and other historically disenfranchised members of our community.
New Jersey LCV has partnered with organizations such as the Pinelands Commission on their efforts to improve access to recreational spaces for people with disabilities. We’ve advocated with the Keep It Green coalition for additional urban parks, and are especially excited about the proposed Essex-Hudson Greenway Project. This development, which would create a nine-mile, 135-acre linear park in Northern New Jersey, spanning Essex and Hudson counties, would offer a range of activities including walking, biking, running and birding. This nature trail could also set the stage for enhanced local economic activity, provide routes for alternative modes of transportation, health and wellness benefits and environmental improvements. We’ve also worked to identify funding and support for urban agriculturists and highlight the barriers that urban and Black and Brown-owned farmers face.
There’s of course more to be done, and that’s why I’m enthusiastic about the 2024 SCORP survey and the opportunity it presents to create a bold vision for parks and recreation in New Jersey that will include those who have been neglected in the past. However, we can’t fix a problem without knowing what the problem is, and we want to hear from all New Jersey residents about their needs regarding parks and open spaces.
Some of the questions that will be asked are:
- Do you have parks and open space that are close enough based on your mode of transportation?
- Is getting to parks difficult because of infrastructure or traffic?
- Do the parks feel safe?
- Do they have activities that are relevant to you?
The SCORP process is meant to gather this information and more from New Jersey residents, and the surveys are available now. Please take a moment to complete the survey today. If you have any questions regarding the survey(s), email the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s advisory committee listserv at email@example.com.
The survey is available in English, Spanish, and other languages upon request. You can find the survey here: https://dep.nj.gov/outside-together/survey/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Isabel Molina is the Environmental Justice Policy Associate at New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.