From Reid Wilson, Opinion columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times.
“Fortunately, the state’s hefty cash balance offers a golden opportunity to meet the need for more outdoor recreation, and Governor Roy Cooper’s budget proposes significant increases for parks, trails, and greenways, including:
- Land acquisition to expand existing parks and trails
- Trail building and maintenance
- Construction of new campgrounds
- Grants to local governments to enhance their recreational assets
- Schools in Parks program that provides outdoor experiential learning in parks for elementary school classes
- Conservation Corps North Carolina program that provides paid jobs to young adults to improve trails and parks
- Hiring of additional Rangers and other State Park staff to meet the demands of increased visitation and new facilities
- Land and Water Fund grants to communities to protect and enhance water quality through land conservation along streams and restoration of degraded waterways and wetlands
- Community resiliency by preserving floodplains and converting them to local trails or parks
The park and greenway overcrowding revealed an obvious fact – we simply do not have enough public outdoor recreation assets in North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong, we are fortunate to have an amazing state park system and outstanding local parks and greenways. But the status quo is falling short.
Not everyone is able to benefit from the outdoors on a regular basis. We must create more parks and trails to meet increasing public demand and to address the lack of equitable access to outdoor recreation in many marginalized communities.”