NJDEP Asks Residents To Complete Private Land Survey On Recreational Needs

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern 

Parvin Lake at Parvin State Park. Photo credit: Parvin State Park Facebook page.

SOUTH JERSEY – Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced The Department of Environmental Protection‘s (DEP) launch of an online survey seeking input from New Jersey residents on recreational needs, especially in overburdened communities recently. 

The survey plans to garner residents’ data on how to best enhance and expand outdoor recreational and open space opportunities as part of the Outside, Together! initiative. The survey will be open for responses from February 22 to March 22, is available in English and Spanish (other languages available through request), and will take approximately ten minutes to complete. 

According to the DEP, the plan will “further equity and environmental justice, enhance climate resilience and sustainability, identify investments in ecotourism, as well as promote technology, stewardship and the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.”

More specifically, the survey results will help the DEP allocate funds for their programs, such as Green Acres, NJ Fish and Wildlife, and Parks, Forest & Historic Sites, to ensure high-quality open space. 

The Outside, Together! survey is important for all residents to take because it will result in a framework and funding priorities for developing parks and preserving open space, with an emphasis on overburdened communities,” said DEP Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization, Elizabeth Dragon. “We need everyone’s input to let us know where they value investments in our outdoor spaces.”

In the survey, residents will see an array of questions surrounding the topics of outdoor recreation and open space, local needs, important park features, and amenities, current problems of outdoor recreation, funding prioritization, climate resilience features to include in parks, and demographic questions. 

“Through this Outside, Together! survey, my DEP colleagues and I hope to learn more from the public we serve about their outdoor needs. With the help of our Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, community leaders, and everyone who participates in this survey, DEP will build an outdoor recreation plan that better connects people to nature and one another,” said Commissioner LaTourette. 

The idea for Outside, Together! began in 2022 when the DEP updated the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) for 2023-2027. This initiative came because New Jersey seeks new environmental assistance from the National Park Service. However, the state must identify statewide recreation needs and opportunities and articulate a comprehensive plan to reap such funding. 

According to the DEP, Outside, Together! objectives include: 

  • To identify opportunities to expand public access to recreation areas and facilities and improve experiences in already existing areas;
  • To educate residents on the importance, needs, benefits, and availability of open space opportunities;
  • To identify high-value open space and recreational needs with a focus on better serving the health and wellness of residents in underserved communities;
  • To enhance the focus on the economic benefits of preservation;
  • To identify necessary policy;
  • To fully engage the public and key partners to ensure an informed approach to outdoor recreation and conservation;
  • To encourage collaborative partnerships and programs;
  • And to satisfy the National Park Service requirements so New Jersey can qualify for Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund opportunities

The DEP claims that the Outside, Together! initiative will be ready by December 2023 after updating the SCORP with new and finite state policies, benchmarks, and recommendation actions.

“New Jersey is an incredible place to live, work and play. We have challenges as the most densely populated and one of the most diverse states in the nation facing the increasingly intense climate crisis impacts,” said Jennifer M. Coffey, Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. “The Outside, Together! initiative is leveraging public input to build a better plan that creates more equitable access to open spaces that better meet current and future needs.”

The DEP, local governments, and nonprofit organizations recognize how important being outdoors can be to mental and physical health. Their efforts work to ensure New Jeryseyans have large amounts of access to high-quality open space and recreation land for residents to enjoy nature and relax in. 

If you are interested in completing the Outside, Together! survey, visit https://dep.nj.gov/outside-together/survey/

To learn more about the Outside, Together! initiative, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2023/23_0016.htm

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