100 million Americans live in areas where they can’t access a quality park within a ten-minute walk from home. In September 2021, a group of congressional leaders reintroduced the Outdoors for All Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would help allocate funding to “expand outdoor recreational opportunities in urban and low-income communities across the nation.”
Systemic barriers disproportionately inhibit communities of color from accessing green space. Research from North CarolinaState’s College of Natural Resources showed that people of color are “far less likely” to participate in outdoor recreation activities. Additionally, a collaborative report from Hispanic Access Foundation and the Center for American Progress, found that communities of color are almost three times more likely than white communities to live in areas that have less or no access to parks and green spaces.
Institutional discrimination in housing practices and city planning has led to this disproportionate lack of access. The Outdoors for All Act would establish the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program to guarantee funding in urban parks in underserved communities. “By passing the Outdoors for All Act, we make it crystal clear that funding for urbans parks is here to stay,” said Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), who is leading the push for enactment. “Far too many low-income communities and communities of color lack access to a nearby park or green space. Green spaces are crucial for the health and wellbeing of our communities. By preserving the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, we will provide much needed urban parks funding for underserved communities throughout our country.”
Helping Underserved Communities Access Green Spaces
Through his love for the great outdoors, which he credits to his father and family trips to national parks as a child, Robert F. Smith supports efforts that work to close gaps in outdoor access. In 2007, Smith and fellow entrepreneur Matthew Burkett founded Lincoln Hills Cares, a Colorado-based nonprofit that facilitates outdoor education and recreation programs for underserved communities to promote outdoor equity. The city of Lincoln Hills, Colorado has a place in Black history. It has been a respite for Black community members since it was established in 1922 as the only western resort accessible to African-Americans in the United States. Today, Lincoln Hills Cares has served over 103,000 young people and partnered with over 75 organizations.
Additionally, Smith continues to support the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the National Parks Service. In 2019, Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, purchased the homes where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived. Through the foundations, the homes were transferred to the care of the National Park Service to be preserved and accessed as part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia.
Learn more about Smith’s work to close gaps in outdoor access through The Trail Foundation, Anglers of Honor, and Lincoln Hills Cares.