Washington’s outdoor recreation goal: No child left inside!!! —

Washington’s outdoor recreation goal: No child left inside!!!

By Joel Connelly
SeattlePI.com

Washington is short of money, but Gov. Jay Inslee is visibly hooked on recommendation of his Blue Ribbon Task Force on Outdoor Recreation.  Its theme: “No Child Left Inside.”

“We need to get more children into the great outdoors,” Inslee told a Tuesday breakfast of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.  “We want to foster a recreation culture in our state.”

The young people of America’s Baby Boom generation took to the hills in the 1970s and 1980s, encouraged by newly middle-class parents of the “Greatest Generation” bundling families into station wagons and heading for the country’s “crown jewels,” its national parks.

A generation later, however, recreation planners worry that young people have become addicted to electronic gadgets of the Great Indoors.  Hence, amidst proposed tax breaks and funding sources, Inslee’s task force listed a key goal in its report released Tuesday:

“Incorporate outdoor recreation into kindergarten through 12th grade core curriculum in physical education, scientific inquiry, technology, environmental and physical sciences and public service.  The outdoors is humanity’s first classroom, laboratory and gym.”

The task force would revive and grow a grant program entitled No Child Left Inside, rewarding  organizations that find ways to get young people into the laboratory of God’s great out-of-doors.

The old timber industry saw used to oppose preservation — “Jobs vs. the Environment” — has proven to be nonsense.  “This (outdoor recreation) is a $22 billion sector of our economy,” Inslee said Tuesday.

An unspoiled outdoors has become a selling point in an economy where technology-driven industries can pick their place to settle.  “The state’s population is growing at a tremendous rate in great part thanks to our incredible recreational opportunities,” said Inslee.

But the task force warns that the state’s recreation infrastructure is under stress due to being both loved and neglected.

“The threats are quite real,” it reported.  “Washington is growing rapidly on every front, placing a strain on outdoor spaces already stressed by financial and policy constraints that threaten our infrastructure and outdoor programs.”

A prime example: The chronically underfunded state parks system faces a $470 million maintenance backlog.

The state’s regressive tax system is about to yield another perfect storm.  The state general fund faces a $1 billion structural deficit just to maintain present services.  The Washington State Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to come up with $4 billion in the next four years for basic education.

In the face of these challenges, the task force wants a stable source of money, and recognition of outdoor recreation as an “essential state service” — “as important as providing transportation, police and fire protection.”

It would have outdoor recreation designated a “specific industry”, on a par with aerospace and maritime, with its own lead staff at the state Department of Commerce.

And it has recommended a high-level coordinating council, spanning state agencies and bringing in the private sector, that would focus on ways to improve the “outdoor recreation culture” in Washington. It added:

“Just as Washington is a world leader in information technology and aerospace, and just as it seeks to cultivate world leadership in other sectors, our state can be a world leader in outdoor gear and apparel design and development, as well as providing world class outdoor experiences.”

Still, kids are a key.

Society is increasingly urbanized.  Global warming is posing great environmental challenges. The outdoors becomes, in words of the task force, “critical” to “our children’s intellectual and physical maturation.”

Read the complete story at SeattlePI.com
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