On Earth Day, Funding for Outdoor Spaces

On this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I’m thinking about how important our public outdoor spaces are. We have been working for almost two decades to promote conservation of natural and cultural resources in the New River region and several of our projects, including the new Brush Mountain Park, have been focused on public trails and access to natural areas.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are unprecedented numbers of people going outdoors, taking in the invigorating spring warmth and breezes, the blooming flowers and opening leaves. It makes sense that while other outlets for physical and emotional health have suspended operations, people are escaping the isolation of working at home and social distancing restrictions by getting outside.

We are fortunate to live in a region that is largely rural in character with open spaces and beautiful natural places to explore. However in recent years, places like the Cascades National Recreation Trail and the McAfee’s Knob and Dragon’s Tooth sections of the Appalachian Trail have seen so much use that they are overcrowded. Due to the pandemic, these areas and others have been closed to decrease the risk of coronavirus transmission.

The pressure on outdoor resources during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as from growth and development in more normal times, highlights the need for investment in public open spaces across the region.

The Virginia General Assembly has convened this week to work on the state budget. Please contact your Virginia Delegates and Senators and urge them to fund conservation programs and natural resources agencies and support critically needed funding for outdoor public spaces.

John Eustis
Executive Director