Pennsylvania, the US state best known for the Declaration of Independence, is prioritizing ensuring fair access to its public lands. They are investing millions to ensure that individuals from diverse backgrounds and abilities can enjoy over 3 million acres of natural spaces. This investment aims to foster inclusivity and break down barriers. It originates from diverse government initiatives and collaborations.
“We never got that opportunity to pass hiking down through generations because we’ve been living in so many centuries of terror and lynchings,” David Jr. said.
David Jr.‘s journey, from discomfort to advocacy, is an example of the impact of initiatives like the Environmental Justice Advisory Board. The Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, running until 2024, emphasizes safety, transportation, and inclusivity as critical elements to broaden public land utilization.
Pennsylvania’s agencies are taking proactive measures to address these issues. This allocation of $52.5 million for various projects, including trails, land protection, and conservation efforts, is a significant step. However, operational challenges, like staffing vacancies within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, have affected program development.
The state’s focus extends beyond monetary investments. Initiatives such as the NextGen Advisory Council and the Office of Outdoor Recreation, established with $422,000 from this year’s budget, aim to drive policy development and encourage diversity. Efforts also involve better tracking of visitor diversity, albeit through incremental methods.
Collaborations with local partners and nonprofits, like Natural Lands and Legacy Land & Water Partners, are crucial in promoting inclusivity. These organizations actively engage with communities. They collect feedback and facilitate welcoming experiences in natural settings. Black Girls Hike Too, led by Stephanie Nicole Dawkins, organizes hikes. Their aim is to make hiking more inclusive for girls and women, fostering a sense of safety and community.
Besides this, the recent announcement by the Biden-Harris Administration highlights their commitment to equity. They’ve allocated nearly $5.3 million for environmental justice projects. The funds are distributed among eight projects in Pennsylvania. They align with the Justice40 Initiative, aiming to empower marginalized communities by providing access to clean air, water, and climate resilience solutions.
Pennsylvania’s investment in public lands demonstrates a commitment. It seems that the state sincerely aims to dismantle barriers and promote inclusivity through environmental justice initiatives.