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Contact: Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Division, 404-656-9448
SCORP: Planning for the Future of Outdoor Recreation in Georgia
By Becky Kelley, Director of State Parks & Historic Sites
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
November 7, 2006
How do Georgia’s diverse citizens envision outdoor recreation in the future? Are they satisfied with the availability of horse trails and hiking trails? Do they have enough fields for their kids to play soccer or softball? Are they more interested in wildlife watching or fishing opportunities? And what steps should be taken now so that Georgia meets those needs 20 years in the future?
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working with the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association, University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute and other partners to answer these questions while updating the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
SCORP allows Georgia to receive federal grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund that supports state, county and city outdoor recreation projects in three categories: land acquisition, facility development and rehabilitation. These grants are administered by the State Parks and Historic Sites Division of DNR, which must update the plan every five years to retain eligibility. An essential part of the update process is to gather public input from outdoor recreation users; therefore, DNR is using a series of town hall meetings and an on-line survey to assess preferences.
“It’s important that Georgians from all across the state give us feedback on their outdoor recreational use,” said State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “This opportunity comes along only once every five years, and the input we receive directly impacts where funds are distributed.”
For example, the last time SCORP was updated, citizens indicated they wanted more trails for hiking, biking and skating. As a result, fourLand and Water Conservation Fundgrants were awarded toacquire property for future trails, five for current trail development and one for trail reconstruction.
Georgia’s natural environment offers varied outdoor recreation opportunities for both residents and visitors to enjoy. They enhance quality of life, protect the environment and help make tourism a top industry in Georgia. However, the state’s steady population growth and development present a challenge to state and local governments and other organizations working to meet the ever-increasing demand for outdoor recreational opportunities. SCORP helps these agencies identify and meet those demands.
Public meetings and an on-line questionnaire are being conducted during 2006, with an emphasis on learning why outdoor recreation is important to Georgians; what types of outdoor recreation activities Georgians participate in; what types of outdoor recreation activities Georgians would participate in, but cannot because their area lacks the opportunities; what Georgians think should be done to improve outdoor recreation in their area; and finally, Georgians’ level of support for new or improved outdoor recreational opportunities.
In addition to the meetings and the questionnaire, the DNR conducted random telephone surveys, as well as focus groups with land management agencies and companies, government agencies and user groups. They also prepared a detailed inventory of publicly owned outdoor recreation lands and facilities, and looked at trends and growth patterns, such as the increasing senior population and immigration.
Once all this information is gathered, a draft document will be presented to the DNR Board during spring 2007 and made available for public comment. By late 2007, officials will have finalized the SCORP document for adoption by the governor and submission to the National Park Service. DNR will then spend the next five years working with its partners, local governments and stakeholders on the implementation of the policies and recommendations in the 2008-2013 plan.