By Devin Mullins
As more people spend time outdoors enjoying the warmer weather, the public officials at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation are developing the state’s 10-year public recreation plan and are accepting public feedback on initial priorities through March 15.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends outdoor activities like recreation as safer alternatives to indoor public activities.
The plan, formally known as “TN 2030: Tennessee State Recreation Plan,” is meant to outline broad priorities for the department and set both short- and long-term action items for improving the state’s park and recreation opportunities.
TDEC describes TN 2030 as “a roadmap for the future of outdoor public recreation.”
In June 2020, TDEC Commissioner David Salyers created the Tennessee Recreation Advisory Committee, an ad hoc body made up of both public and private leaders in Tennessee. The committee’s primary purpose is to develop recommendations for the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to encourage stakeholder participation and monitor the implementation of the final plan.
“A portion of [TN 2030] will be the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which will serve as a guide for all public outdoor recreation in urban and rural neighborhoods, cities, and regions for our state,” wrote Alisha Eley, an associate at Kimley-Horn, a nationwide planning and design consultation firm that is responsible for writing the TN 2030 plan.
All 50 states are required to prepare a state recreation plan every five years to be eligible for funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses earnings form offshore oil and gas leasing to strengthen domestic conservation efforts.
At this stage, Kimley-Horn consultants are collecting feedback from the public about the advisory committee’s draft list of priorities via an online form through March 15. Their draft priorities are Advocacy and Education; Collaboration and Partnerships for Economic Success; Conservation; and Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Access, Affordability. Each of these priorities is accompanied by three to five specific goals.
“Planning is an integral part of what we do, and we want to hear from Tennesseans about their thoughts for parks and conservation long term,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers in a press statement.
The survey questions prompt participants to choose the three priorities and goals that they feel are the most important, and also ask participants for suggestions on priorities that are not included on the draft list. The agency had received approximately 200 responses as of the public comment period’s original end date of Feb. 19. TDEC extended the comment period to March 15 to allow for more public participation.
“After the comment form closes, the [committee] will utilize this data to finalize the list of priorities and goals. We will be facilitating public meetings to review the draft plan once it is ready,” says Eley.
As of Feb. 19, respondents had most frequently submitted Greenways and Trails, Equity, and Conservation as their top priorities. The counties with the most submissions at that time were Davidson, Knox and Hamilton.
“We are exploring additional public engagement opportunities but have not decided on any final details yet,” says Eley.
The comment form and a brief outline of initial goals and priorities can be found here. Tennesseans can continue to submit feedback through March 15.
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